fashion-feature

\”Beautiful Strangers\” don\’t have to be covered in designer labels to be selected.[/media-credit]

“Are those the YSL booties?”

“Why yes, they are. I bought them a couple of days ago.”

“I love what you’re wearing. Would you mind it if we could interview you for Beautiful Stranger.tv? I just want to ask you a few questions about what you’re wearing.”

Ninety-eight out of 100 times, the impeccably dressed individual will reply, “Yes of course! But what’s Beautiful Stranger.tv?”

On any given day and any given hour, Beautiful Stranger’s stringers — street fashion reporters — roam the streets in search of the most sartorially up to date fashionistas from the fashion capitals of Milan and New York to cities whose presence is significantly smaller on the fashion radar, including D.C, Chicago and even Madison (you may have picked up a tote bag and Chapstick somewhere on campus).

A stringer is unassuming, fashionable — but camouflaged among bystanders and jay walking pedestrians. Their eyes dart left to right, down to up, from shoes to purse to sunglasses (in the summer) and abide by the single mantra when seeking Beautiful Strangers for an interview: “If head to ankle looks fabulous but the shoes are not, then move on” (that means no UGGs).

Fashion magazines impose an editor’s selections of styles that are the brainchild of individuals swayed by the influence of advertisers and personal tastes. If a stylist is in a bad mood, pairing Alexander McQueen 10-inch ‘Armadillo’ stilettos from Spring 2010 Paris Fashion Week — also worn by Lady Gaga while crooning, “Walk walk, fashion baby, work it move that bitch crazy” — with a translucent, nipple-baring dress by Osman Yousefzada seems rebelliously fashionable and placates the editor’s angst. As for the outfit’s practicality? Appreciating such artistic work is a third person appreciation — not the first person, and such is the fact of the fashion industry — only to an extent that its power fails to reach Beautiful Stranger.

Profiles of fashionable pedestrians in street wear, be it models, students, investment bankers or moms and dads, are compiled onto Beautiful Stranger’s publicly viewable database, updated frequently with links to products available for purchase below interview questions that range from the relevant “What are you wearing?” to more casual questions about music and film. However, all interviews end with a question about “how she’s/he’s reducing her/his carbon footprint.”

“Any product that you see in Beautiful Stranger are all products that are all from the Beautiful Strangers that we have interviewed,” Abby Wallach, Beautiful Stranger co-founder and UW alumna, said.

The criteria for selecting a Beautiful Stranger is easier said than done, although the selection isn’t gender or occupation specific.

“Something about them has to stand out,” Wallach said.

Living the role of a stringer, you might be surprised to learn how pedestrians define fashion. Models tend to mix high and lowbrow brands (or a lack thereof) — a unique street-vendor accessory paired with a Uniqlo jacket and Jimmy Choo booties for example. You may stop an impeccably dressed, sophisticated looking individual, thinking she’s wearing something from Jil Sander or Chanel from whom you’ll be surprised to learn she’s head to toe in H&M or Zara.

Even our first lady’s profiles in magazines and blogs highlight editors’ fascination for her down to earth sartorial tastes. They wonder, she’s the first lady and can wear anything she wants, but she chooses J-Crew?

“Michelle Obama has unbelievable style,” Wallach said. “She’s a very real person who’s a mother and a wife, who can relate to people in the world. She has her high end for important events, but when she’s around her kids she mixes it up. She’s a J-Crew girl.”

Three years after their company’s conception, Wallach and Beautiful Stranger’s co-founder Melissa Fedor are in the works for a television series, book proposal and novel. In addition, they’re planning to utilize innovative web-based technology in order to provide website visitors with interactive shopping opportunities within video segments (that I’d like to coin, shop-in-vid ). But their efforts were not without taking new steps and undergoing changes.

Wallach comes from a TV and film background as a former director for Showtime Networks Inc. and also as an executive producer of Netherlands Television & Film, before pursuing Beautiful Stranger.tv.

“This started with behind the scenes of one fashion show three years ago, and we featured twelve Beautiful Strangers and it continued to grow over the past three years,” Wallach said.

From merely posting photographs and pictures, the company periodically updates its site with the “Beautiful Strangers of the Day,” a shop guide, a “Celeb Spotlight” feature that highlights celebrity stylists and a “Video Profile” of celebrity designers, actors and a plethora of models.

With followers submitting their own profile pictures and interview answers in the hopes of finding their fashionable selves included among the handpicked few found walking the streets led to the creation of a separate category called “Submitted Street Snaps.”

“The people that know Beautiful Stranger are very loyal,” Wallach said. “People want to get onto Beautiful Stranger, and companies want to work with Beautiful Stranger.”

In the light of organic companies like Whole Foods, a business plan should not steer away from its mission, and Abby Wallach has a piece of advice.

“The best way to have companies mentioned on Beautiful Stranger is to have their products into the hands of tastemakers, trend setters and people who like to share their information,” Wallach said.

To learn more about Beautiful Stranger, visit www.beautifulstranger.tv.