Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Chalkdust and Boots' first interview!

Greetings, all! Welcome to my 200th post since starting this here little space on the web. Way back in October, I had the brilliant idea to get in touch with a good friend of mine from college who has a very interesting job. Naturally, because I had this idea in October, we finally got it all together in early February. And I'm FINALLY putting this together on the blog in mid-February. Because I'm awesome. So without further ado, meet Kate:

Kate and I celebrating her (24th?) birthday in Philadelphia in 2005

Kate and I met on our first day of college in September of 1999 - we lived down the hall from each other and instantly connected. We lived in the same apartment our sophomore year and hung out constantly for years after. 

Kate and I on a Princeton (not where we went to college, so there, stalkers!) tiger in summer of 2000

After graduation, she and her wonderful boyfriend (soon to become fianc√© and now husband) stayed in Philly, where they were my touchstone with reality while I started grad school. Unfortunately, they eventually moved to Pittsburgh and have recently relocated to San Francisco (le sigh), where Kate does something pretty damn interesting: she works for ModCloth! Rad, huh? 

Kate in the Salty and Pepper dress, If It Ain't Got That Bling Heel, and True Love watch; photo courtesy of ModCloth, by Creative Photographer Kristin Cofer

So as you can probably tell, the text in purple is my questions and the answers are, um, Kate's. Yay for logic!

For those who don't know, can you tell us what ModCloth is? 
ModCloth is an online fashion retailer. We specialize in vintage-style clothing and pieces from independent designers. We've also got a lot of cool decor items. But what really makes ModCloth special is the emphasis we place on the user experience, our customers, and community. Shopping on ModCloth is fun - there are vignettes for each product (written by our fabulous writers - some of whom were fashion bloggers before they started at ModCloth), great photography, and new products launched every day. We've got ModStylists who answer clothing- and outfit-specific questions, and our customer service people are super nice & helpful. We also pay a lot of attention to feedback we get from customers.

Can you explain what your job is at ModCloth?
I'm a business data analyst. Basically, I conduct tests & interpret data to help teams at ModCloth (Marketing, Merchandising, Sourcing, Creative, etc.) make better decisions. For example, we've got a program called Be the Buyer, where we show samples of possible products and our customers vote on the ones they'd like to be sold on our site. I've been helping to figure out how to interpret votes and comments so that we choose the samples our customers really want to buy. It seems simple on the face of it - just pick the items with the highest percentage of pick it votes. But when you dig down, you find that people sometimes vote yes because they don't particularly care either way - so you need to figure out how to identify the pieces that people really care about.

Were you familiar with them before you started working for them? 
Yes! I was a graduate student at Carnegie Mellon (CMU), and I first heard about ModCloth because the founders, Eric and Susan, were featured on the CMU website. They're a husband and wife team who were high school sweethearts and attended CMU together as undergrads. Susan started out selling vintage dresses online - from her dorm room - and Eric and Susan worked together to build ModCloth to what it is today. When I first visited the site, I loved the vintage/indie vibe - I'm a huge fan of 50s style dresses, and there's often a great selection of those at ModCloth!

Kate with Marcos (a software engineer and analyst) and Gabby (the cousin of the ModCloth mascot Winston), wearing the Frankly I Don't Give a Dress, Cheery Cherry heels, and Magicicada earrings; photo courtesy of ModCloth, by Merchandise Photography Manager Danielle Bouchette

I remember you as always being my shopping buddy when we both lived in the same city. And later, around the end of those years, I remember that you started doing a fair amount of online shopping for vintage dresses and other clothes. Would you say you were always attracted to a life/career in the fashion world or is it something that grew over time?
I definitely didn't think I'd have a career in the fashion world... somehow is just happened! But there was a time when I was thinking I'd start selling some vintage dresses - mainly because I liked buying them so much. :) What really drew me to ModCloth was the opportunity to work with fashion (my hobby) and analyze online interactions (my passion).

Could you share a little bit of your educational background (major, graduate studies, etc.)? Did you ever think, while you were in college / grad school, that you'd end up with this career? Did your studies train you for this? In other words, what did YOU think you were going to be "when you grew up"?
In college, I majored in Philosophy & Psychology, and minored in Fine Arts and French. I spent a semester in Paris and loved the fashion scene there. :) In grad school, I studied Psychology & Behavioral Decision Research... definitely no fashion scene to speak of! Professionally, my interests steer toward analysis of social behavior & decision-making - which is why my job is such a good fit! But I kind of felt my way along to a career - figuring out what interested me, rather than having a set goal in mind early on. And I'm still growing up! [editor's note: hear, hear!]

Wearing the Garden Club dress, Belt It Out in white, and Postulate Pump; photo courtesy of ModCloth, by Danielle Bouchette

Now the only clothes shopping online I've done is for shoes (with companies with whose measurements I'm familiar). What are your favorite ModCloth pieces (any that you own?)? Which pieces would you recommend a novice like me to investigate? 
My personal faves are 50s-style dresses. Hips are my problem area, so the a-line & full skirts are so easy... and if the waist is a tad big it's not a problem because I often like to pair dresses with belts. A couple of my favorites on the site right now are 'Frankly, I Don't Give a Dress' [editor's note: the awesome red dress she's wearing in the photo above with the cutie-pie pug. And engineer] and the 'Guest of Honor Dress' [editor's note: pretty!] - which is actually a printed jersey knit & super comfy! I also adore the 'Still Life Photographer Dress' - but I *just* ordered it, so I can't pass on a review yet. [editor's note: Kate's review is on the dress' page itself now!] Lots of people love our 'Tour' dresses (for example, the 'Cable Car Tour Dress' and the 'Coat Tour Dress') - but they're really short, so they should be worn with leggings if you're taller than 5'3".

ModCloth has free domestic returns, so it's easy to order a couple of styles or sizes and just keep the ones that fit well. You can also get in touch with our ModStylists if you have questions about fit (there's a "Chat with a ModStylist" link on every page).

We've got a bunch of awesome decor items & accessories, and you don't really have to worry about size for those. I bought the Positively Phototropic Lamp in Magnolia [editor's note: boo! I can't find it!] and I absolutely love how cheery it makes my work area!

Even though I haven't done much clothes shopping online, I've been aware of ModCloth for, oh, a few years now: I feel that they have a huge online presence. What do they actively do to be so well-connected with the online fashion/style community? 
Staying connected with the online style community - and just online communities in general - is a big priority for ModCloth. We've got a couple social media gals who focus on things like Facebook and Twitter and seek out for other ways to interact with our customers - and encourage them to interact with each other. They also look out for feedback on other sites & pass that on so we can figure out what we're doing right and what we need to work on. Our writers keep an eye out for fun fashion blogs and other creatively-oriented blogs and sites that our customers might be interested in.

A lot of us were engaged in online communities before joining ModCloth, and we're passionate about connecting with people online. We also love to engage our customers in fun activities... whether it's a contest to style outfits on sites like Polyvore or a scavenger hunt on our own website.

What might be my absolute picture of Kate, with handsome Rocky, wearing the Absinthe dress and holding the Rocky mug (wait, Kate - your DOG has its own MUG?!); photo courtesy of ModCloth, by Photo Project Coordinator Dee Larsen

Wow, that was pretty awesome, huh? [Oh, it's C&B again] Kate has an awesome job and she's an awesome friend for agreeing to do this for me. Folks, I hope you enjoyed this super-special 200th post and reading about my buddy. 

Let's all say it together: THANKS, KATE! 


  1. Thanks for doing this, Dolores! It was fun. :) Happy 200th post!!

    Oh noes! about the Positively Phototropic Light! Here's the link, but it went out of stock: http://www.modcloth.com/Apartment/Gifts+Electronics/-Positively-Phototropic-Lamp-in-Magnolia. We've got this one that I also had my eye on: http://www.modcloth.com/Apartment/-Laughing-Willow-Lamp.

    And yes, Rocky has his own mug! When the writing team got it in, it reminded them of him. It's pretty absurd & cute.

  2. I had no idea Kate had such a cool job! Come to the West Coast and visit!

  3. Happy 200th post!
    Holy Crap! Amazing, Modcloth is my daily stalker website...Chalkdust you have some friends in high places! Lucky! Great interview too, good to know that we don't need a fashion degree to work in fashion.

    I love the heels with the red dress, so versititle!

  4. Chalkdust--that's a lot of posts! And how cool to have a friend in high places. What I found most interesting was the path she took to working for Modcloth. I often tell my students that I started out with one goal...and veered into teaching.