For as long as he can remember, David Levit, 26, of Burke, has possessed two things: An entrepreneurial spirit and an uncanny fashion sense.
Born in Uzbekistan in 1988, Levit thinks the latter may have come from his grandmother, who worked in the Soviet Union’s fashion industry. The former, he says, was greatly fostered after he moved to the U.S., in 1998.
Levit has now combined these two traits with the launch of both a website and a smartphone app. called RunwayStop.
“What RunwayStop does is allow those who want high-end runway fashions--but can’t afford them--to be able to find very similar items in their local area for much less,” he said.
By searching for specific designers or their fashion lines, users of RunwayStop are shown similarly cut and designed items at various price points. They are then able to link to retailers who sell them.
Levit said the idea came to him after a friend in the high-end fashion industry told him that many designers sell the same high-end items--that go for thousands of dollars on the runways--to retail department stores where they sell at lower price points.
“They will sell their high-end lines, but they will also have a line in Macy’s or Nordstrom’s that will be the same cut, or very similar, for much less,” Levit said.
The idea came to him naturally, he said, from his high school days at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, where he graduated in 2006.
“I was kind of a fashion trendsetter in high school,” he said. “But I was always on a budget, so I kind of did what RunwayStop does, but on my own, just in a much more time-consuming way.”
Kenny Gold, another 2006 TJ grad, said he remembers Levit being very both innovative and fashionable.
“David was a type-A personality guy who was always looking for new ways to do things, and also always had fashion on his mind, even in high school,” Gold said. “Of all the people in our class, he seemed the most European in terms of his fashion sense. That really set him apart.”
Levit credits Thomas Jefferson’s emphasis on computer science for aiding him to eventually become savvy enough to know that smartphone apps were the wave of the future, but he said he learned even more about that subject from his investment banker clients in San Francisco.
“After TJ, I went to Princeton where I received an AB in public policy. While at Princeton, I learned that regardless of what major you go into, many grads there get offers and go into investment banking right out of school, so that’s what I did.”
After graduating, Levit moved to San Francisco, where he said he hobnobbed with many investor clients, many of whom were in the information technology and computer industry.
“I really learned a lot from my Silicone Valley clients about the future of website applications and smartphone apps,” he said. “I decided that was what I should really be doing.”
But Levit said he also missed the east coast, so he decided to leave Silicon Valley and return home to the Dulles Technology Corridor area.
“San Francisco was very crowded in the computer app field, and Northern Virginia and D.C. are much closer to the fashion industry in New York,” he said. “In addition, there is a burgeoning fashion industry right here in D.C. that is growing larger every day.”
Levit says he is committed to RunwayStop and is working at it fulltime. In addition, he has a handful of part-time employees. “It is working out so far,” he said about garnering a living from the website and smartphone app.
“RunwayStop.com is free to use online and the app is free to download and free of charge for users,” he said. “We make money by monetizing links to store’s websites. If a user makes a purchase at a retail establishment by way of our direct link to it, we get back anywhere from 5 to 15 percent of each purchase. We hope to eventually have advertising and to garner partnerships with more and more retail stores.”
Levit said that until then, he is his own best customer.
“I use it myself all the time to find fashions that I am looking for. I love the site and I would use it even if I hadn’t created it,” he said.