Faces of Berkeley
Alumni's New Site Lets Trendsetters Blog in Style

Photo: Chictopia co-founders Corinne Chan and Helen Zhu (right) launched the social networking fashion Web site this spring.
Salgu Wissmath/Staff
Chictopia co-founders Corinne Chan and Helen Zhu (right) launched the social networking fashion Web site this spring.

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UC Berkeley alumna Helen Zhu says her recently launched social networking Web site aims to be the "MySpace for fashion."

Chictopia, the Web site Zhu officially launched two months ago with friends Corinne Chan, also a UC Berkeley graduate, and Richard Ho, a graduate of the University of Texas at Austin, provides fashionable users with a space to blog about their personal style and connect to others with similar tastes, said Zhu.

"The Web site enables trendsetters to set up personal style blogs to broadcast their style and get noticed by the fashion industry and build up a fan base," said Zhu.

Zhu, who graduated from UC Berkeley in 2000, said she conceived of the idea for the site after she read an article in Time magazine that mentioned other Internet startup companies.

"(The article) said that the Internet has empowered people to surface their talents on the Internet, like MySpace has formed a music industry and YouTube has formed a film industry," she said.

Zhu said the main difference between Chictopia and other fashion sites, such as Sugar Inc. and Style.com, is that Chictopia uses everyday people as its fashion inspirations, rather than using the celebrities and models who dominate the fashion scene.

"It's a place where you can get more resources about more relevant content than magazines or TV shows, where models don't look like you and TV stars have a budget that's way bigger than yours," said Zhu. "I think we're starting not just a company, but a movement where individual style icons surface based on merit."

Regular Chictopia blogger and UC Berkeley junior Annabel Ly, who was recently voted Chictopia's style icon of the month, said she has used the site to connect with other fashionistas.

"I love the fashion world and have been involved in other style-related Internet ventures and communities, but I feel that Chictopia is the best and easiest fashion networking site I've used so far," Ly said.

The company was voted first place by other startup businesses as the best startup at the Startup Camp San Francisco. Chictopia has also been written about in The Washington Post's TechCrunch blog.

"I'm really proud of what we've done," said Chan. "We've seen a lot of growth over a short period of time."

Zhu and Chan have also recently launched "Everybody is Ugly," an online publication written by Chictopia users.

"We (brought) together the best writers that we discovered on the Web site and formed ... an expert advice column," said Zhu.

The site's founders said they have clear goals for the company and how they want it to grow.

"It's about us voicing to the major retailers what we want to wear," said Zhu. "So it's style set by the people, for the people."


Contact Amy Mao at [email protected]

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