(BEIRUT) — As clothing lines rush to adapt to emerging fashion markets in the Middle East, an enterprising Lebanese duo are empowering women to help influence clothing brands and craft their next outfit.
Nour El Assaad and Loubna Ibrahim are co-founders of TopShou, a social interactive mobile app with an ambitious mission to help women solve the most pressing question — what to wear?
The app allows users to upload photos of their clothes into a virtual closet, and mix-and-match tops, bottoms, and accessories into their daily outfits. They can also share outfits with their friends and scroll through one another’s wardrobe.
“Fashion really has no age because individual style never gets old or young,” El Assaad said. “Our goal is to empower a woman’s style by giving her more resources.”
Experts believe the average woman spends 16 minutes digging through her wardrobe every weekday morning. El Assaad said she hopes TopShou will help women save time and stay à la mode.
“Making a daily fashion statement is easy with TopShou,” she said.
The free app was launched to iOS users on Aug. 20 at the UK Lebanon Tech Hub in Beirut. El Assaad and Ibrahim are part of an emerging wave of young Lebanese entrepreneurs entering the start-up scene in the Middle East.
“We’re seeing changes you’ve never seen before in the Arab world,” El Assaad said. “We trying to breakthrough and join the huge boom in startups, especially here in Lebanon.”
Beirut’s entrepreneurial culture is rapidly growing into a powerhouse for tech startups and business incubators. Lebanon’s Central Bank recently added $400 million into the startup tech economy through its “Circular 331″ initiative — a project to help stimulate the startup economy with seven-year interest-free credit incentives.
But some entrepreneurs worry the political climate and presidential stalemate hampers potential growth. BBC World News estimates Lebanon has one of the slowest Internet connections in the world.
“It’s not affecting us,” El Assaad said. “Actually it’s the opposite; Lebanon has helped us grow and market to a more diverse group.”
In March, TopShou won third place at the ArabNet Ideathon Competition during a creative arts conference in Beirut. El Assaad believes the growing tech industry has encouraged them to be innovative.
“Our biggest challenge was creating the app, and we already created the app,” she said. “Our second challenge was getting people to believe in us, but we already have people believing in us.”
El Assaad admits app marketing and user growth could take time, but she views the market potential as a confidence boost.
“We did a huge market research to know what’s the trend,” she said. “We’ve watched everything; we know what people want in the fashion industry.”
The app will be available in other languages and on Android devices after the pilot phase, El Assaad added. A similar platform for men is also in the works.
“After the three-month pilot phase we will launch new projects,” she said. “Soon users can seek fashion advice for a small price.”
The app will also add an eCommerce platform which will redirect users to sites that sell apparel and accessories.
El Assaad and Ibrahim have been working closely with the app development team at Ideatolife on coding and app logistics. El Assaad already manages a busy schedule as a marketing professional and founder of a Lebanese anti-bullying NGO.
“I prefer to put titles aside and say that me and Loubna (Ibrahim) do everything together,” she said. “We’re a dynamic duo.”
To download the TopShou app, click here.
WATCH Nour El Assaad explain the story behind TopShou: