As anyone who has worked in editorial or PR knows, the process of sending and fulfilling sample requests can be incredibly stressful, confusing and time-consuming. Editors and their assistants spend entire work days shuffling through paper look books and finding points of contact for samples, while PRs and design houses spend as much time tracking, sending out and receiving those samples. The whole system is weirdly antiquated--a testament to the fashion industry's resistance to change. A couple of start-ups have popped up in recent years with the intention of using the internet to modernize and facilitate the process. For example, The Lookbook.com, which launched in 2008, aims to provide a directory for the entire fashion industry, giving members access to contact information for editors, stylists, PR reps, etc. FashionGPS, now known mostly for its fashion week check-in software, also provides easy sample trafficking for PRs and fashion houses.
Now, a couple of former accessories editors have launched The Runthrough, a site that makes the sample wrangling process more like online shopping. According to WWD, the site runs like a high-end members only e-commerce site, where editors are given a log-in and password and can browse the products, organized by designer, season, price and category, and add them to a cart. Upon providing a publication, editor, stylist, shoot description and pickup, run-through and return dates, the request is sent to the design house. Mandy Tang, one of the co-founders, calls it a "one-stop shop for editors.”
Although it's ultimately editors whose lives are made significantly easier by this service, it's the design houses and PR firms who The Runthrough will make money off of. Prices reportedly start at $6,000 per season for the firms, while editors use the service for free. So far, 17 firms have signed on including Donna Karan, Michael Kors, Tory Burch, Pamela Love and Rebecca Minkoff. And if the service is as easy for editors to use as it sounds, they will probably have some advantage over non-participants in terms of getting placements. Meaning, it's only a matter of time before other brands follow suit. For The Runthrough's official launch in October, Tang and her co-founder Meggan Crum are planning to expand the service to include shoes, bags, small leather goods, scarves, hats and eyewear.
WWD asked the duo why they chose trade over consumer, to which Crum responded, “Right now we really love that we’re actually solving a real problem that exists in the fashion industry,” which makes sense. New e-commerce platforms are a dime a dozen. However, there are so few business-to-business sites for fashion, an industry that could definitely benefit from some organizational technology, but for some reason can be weirdly resistant to it. If there's one thing that's certain, it's that the internet has lead to major changes in the fashion industry and The Runthrough is one more example of this.