Virtual couture design your new clothes online

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Indy Lifestyle Online

Women who have become frustrated trying to find that perfect dress in the post-Christmas sales may have more luck using StyleShake, a new website which allows customers to design their own dress for less than 100.

The retail sector has already suffered a grim Christmas season, particularly fashion retailers who have struggled to tempt customers into their stores without slashing prices to bargain levels. With more customers preferring to snap up products like digital cameras and DVDs of blockbuster movies online, because of lower prices and the convenience of online retailing, fashion could be the latest sector forced to face the threat posed by unconventional internet rivals.

Yet while retailers are getting used to the lower prices and convenience of "e-tailing", StyleShake adds a further potent ingredient into the mix in the form of user-generated content by allowing its customers to design their own clothes. Customers use virtual mannequins to choose the colour, material and style of the dress, down to the cut of the neckline and length of the sleeves. The site also allows budding fashion designers to browse other users' creations for inspiration, with 1,000 designs already uploaded to the StyleShake gallery section.

Once the user is happy with the design, StyleShake makes the dress in London not in sweatshops in Asia and then ships it to the customer a process that takes around 10 working days. It even has its own sizing guide that uses the average of leading fashion retailers to ensure the dress is as the customer envisaged.

The site was founded by Iris Ben-David, a former online advertising executive, and is backed by Internet Lab, a joint initiative between Israeli venture capital company Gemini and Lightspeed Venture Partners, a US investment firm.

The site is likely to appeal to customers frustrated with the range provided by high street fashion retailers as well as people who have a flair for design but no aptitude for sewing.