While working in the banking industry two decades ago in New York City, Linda Farquhar noticed a disparity between well-tailored clothing for men and women.
She wanted better options in women’s business apparel and pitched the idea to a women’s boutique, but the timing wasn’t right.
Now, 20 years later, Farquhar’s Wilmington boutique, entreDonovan, is in its second year of helping women build their own business looks.
And it’s doing so with the help of some serious technology.
entreDonovan is one of just a handful of retailers in the country using body-scanning technology that analyzes, measures, snaps 3D images and provides recommendations for each woman who uses the service.
Farquhar’s boutique, located at 222 Delaware Ave., opened in 2013. It has served over 50 women with customized business clothing.
The impetus to create entreDonovan — part family moniker, part “entrepreneurial” — arose when Farquhar realized she wasn’t satisfied with her career in business anymore. The market she was interested in was still underserved, she felt.
“There was still a need, still a void in the marketplace,” Farquhar said. “Eighteen years later there was still a gaping hole for women’s professional apparel.”
She dusted off her old business plan, gauged the need for custom apparel among her peers and added a business ingredient she hoped would make the boutique a success.
“I have an MBA and I covered retailers and financials and tech companies where I worked before,” Farquhar said. “I thought, I’m not going to start a business where I’m just measuring women.”
In the summer of 2011, she visited an apparel trade show and was captivated by an organization that was using body scanning technology to customize clothing. Farquhar agreed to be the company’s beta tester. (Farquhar declined to name the company.) Her boutique started beta testing in April 2013.
The store, which has held court at 222 Delaware Ave. since March 2014, is now officially commercially licensed for its body scanning technology. Prior to this March, entreDonovan operated out of storefront space at the Hotel DuPont.
So how does it work?
Women who want a custom-fitted look must first make an appointment. The team at entreDonovan then gets to know each woman on a more personal level. She is then scanned in a dressing room, on a turntable wearing close fitting knitwear. Then, about 30 minutes later, the store has a set of results which include measurements, a 3D image, recommendations for shoulders, slope, posture and more.
By this week, the boutique plans to add additional graphic-cards to deliver results to customers instantaneously.
The store also offers an electronic style consultation for an additional $100. These results, also from a digital body scan, allow employees to enter measurement data, posture information and photos. From those metrics, employees receive a comprehensive list of style recommendations based on each woman’s size and shape. Recommendations include lengths, styles and colors that women should embrace or possibly stay away from, and even what length to wear a handbag at.
“It’s fun, but it’s things you’ve probably never thought of,” Farquhar said. “For some women, it’s reinforcement. It gives them confidence that they are making really good choices. For others, it’s just a starting point and it gives them a lot of confidence.”
The measurements are converted to vendor order forms. At a higher price point, women can purchase customizable suits, blouses, pants and so on in a variety of patterns, fabrics and colors. The store also utilizes an iPad app to assist clients in finding customizable shoes.
Farquhar’s boutique was also recently named one of six national winners in Comcast Business Class’ “Innovations 4 Entrepreneurs” program, which awarded the five-person boutique $25,000 for improving customer experience via technology.
Farquhar said the plan is to use some of the money to launch a marketing and advertising campaign for the boutique, develop new patterns internally and upgrade its website so that customers can complete custom purchases online.
“We’d really like to extend the reach of our business. Our clothing when we first started out was mostly suits, but some women said they don’t really wear suits everyday,” Farquhar said. “So now we can do just pants or blouses or sweaters. We want to develop a pretty good pants program.”