Grailed has spent much of 2017 making moves: It was back in February that the peer-to-peer menswear selling site announced the company-wide decision to expand into womenswear. Nearly six months before that, Kristen Dempsey, then the only woman on staff at the time, joined the company, and was soon after promoted to Brand Director of Heroine, Grailed's online marketplace for womenswear; the site finally goes live on Wednesday morning.
"We knew that we wanted Heroine to feel pretty similar to Grailed because we think Grailed is great at that feeling of 'for enthusiasts, by enthusiasts,'" says Dempsey. "A really community-centric marketplace was what we felt made Grailed really successful, so we wanted to bring that over to Heroine."
Over the past year, Dempsey has hired two more women to work alongside her, handling marketing and managing online support for the growing Heroine community. In addition, Dempsey has held focus groups of women, speaking either with those in the industry or Grailed users who were buying or selling women's items on the site. (Although Grailed is strictly menswear, more androgynous items do end up on the website.) According to Dempsey, the focus group collectively echoed that those sites that already exist in the online marketplace space don't feel personally tailored enough for them. "They didn't feel like they had found a home in the way that Grailed felt like a home for menswear enthusiasts," she recalls.
Heroine launched its beta site in July and the results thus far have blown the team's expectations "out of the water." "The quality of listings on the site is incredible," says Dempsey. "We're so lucky to have this group of foundational users because they've set the bar extremely high." And while Grailed has achieved a balance of offering such "grails" in the form of niche menswear brands (Rick Owens, Raf Simons) in addition to hyped streetwear labels like Supreme and Palace, Dempsey aims to offer a broad range of brands for women. In fact, Dempsey classifies the clothing offered on Heroine as "archival," or "culturally or historically significant in some way to the fashion sphere."
"There are items that are very current on the site, as well — we have a lot of Vetements and Off-White, for example," says Dempsey. "But a majority are collectors' items, so it's not just about what is trending this season or what's the newest thing. It's about more of a historical aspect to the items." A quick scroll through Heroine's shopping page boasts Maison Martin Margiela, Helmut Lang, Saint Laurent and Alexander McQueen, to name only a few.
With investors continuing to pour millions into online resale startups, including Poshmark, ThredUp, The RealReal and Vestiaire Collective, as well as the rise of newer and hip peer-to-peer online marketplaces, the timing of Heroine's arrival couldn't be more perfect. But what will help Heroine stand out, as well as help build its community, is its own content platform, which will be run by an additional employee hired by Dempsey at the end of the month. Similarly to Grailed's "Dry Clean Only" vertical, Herione will also feature "Master Class" stories on designers, street style coverage, editorial lookbooks and think pieces. "Everything is very high-minded with an aim to educate and engage the users," says Dempsey.
And what's a women's content platform without horoscopes? Dempsey confirms that the site will offer those, too, though it'll give a deeper understanding of what one's horoscope means rather than predicting the future — with designers and collections as examples, of course. "We have a specific designer or collection chosen for a Libra or a Scorpio," says Dempsey. "And hopefully through seeing that collection come to life, people will understand their sign a little better."
Grailed serving as a model marketplace is also advantageous to Heroine's launch. (Dempsey considers the two as siblings rather than twins.) But that doesn't mean that there's any less pressure for the women's marketplace to succeed. "We're coming out with a big fanfare because everyone knows Grailed and there's an expectation," says Dempsey. "But when Grailed started, it was very small and we didn't even have content for the first year. It had time to grow itself in this certain way." With Heroine, she hopes to do the same. "I'm excited very much to expand in the future and to be doing all sorts of fun and exciting things, but I also want to really get the feeling right before we push it too far."
Homepage image: Heroine logo. Photo: @grailed/Twitter