When Jesse Lee prepared to launch the new peer-to-peer shopping app, Basic Space, he started recruiting a select list of sellers — and he didn't have to look far: He just asked his friends. Except the Los Angeles-based serial entrepreneur and founder of creative agency Dub Frequency Media (or The dFm) — which boasts a roster of cool-kid clients and projects, like showcasing Victoria's Secret at Coachella and throwing the Chloe X Halle dinner for ASOS — has a list of notable friends who readily support him (and vice versa) in his professional endeavors.
Differentiating itself from other celebrity, editor and influencer-favored resellers like The RealReal, Vestiaire and Depop, Basic Space comes in app form only, has a feature for gifting to another user and, for now, just sells from Lee's invite-only selection of "influencers behind the influencer." The inspiration for starting Basic Space actually came from his fiancée Erica Hass, who used to sell vintage designer pieces and furs on Etsy and Poshmark. "I won't name names, but quite well-known bloggers — a couple ones in particular — would buy them from her and wear them during New York and Paris Fashion Week and all that and tag their 'Escada blazer' and a 'vintage fur' that she bought from Erica for $150 bucks or whatever," he explains, over the phone from The dFm offices.
So Lee decided to enter the dynamic peer-to-peer retail space, while leveraging his long-established personal and business relationships, between which there is plenty of overlap. "[With] The dFm, we're always on the 'front end' of working with influencers and talent before they became 'famous' or 'relevant,' says Lee. "I worked with Diplo and Steve [Aoki] when they weren't making money as DJs."
And his friends, from a range of industries, appreciate not only the extra income stream from unloading their gratis swag and gently-worn/used items, but also the chance to be in good company. "When [Lee] told me about [Basic Space,] I was excited to be part of it because it's a bit more exclusive and selective than some of the other apps out there that offer the same thing," multi-hyphenate creative and Basic Space's debut campaign model Emily Oberg explains via email.
On Basic Space, shoppers or "users" will currently find "curated" resale items in a range of categories, from Steve Aoki's limited edition birthday t-shirt ($100) to chef Ari Taymor's Shelton Magnetic Knife set ($60) to Oberg's Gucci Dionysus GG Supreme Mini Bag ($1,200). Additional sellers from across the creative industries include: South African photographer Henrik Purienne and home design guru Brad Holdgrafer, plus, on the fashion side: stylist and designer Sami Miro and LPA designer Pia Arrobio, who are also faces of upcoming Basic Space campaigns.
"All these [male and female influencers] have cachet within our 'cultural scene,'" Lee explains. "We're not going after the obvious model or celebrities."
The app currently has about 50 sellers, with about half currently "active," and approximately 6,500 registered users. Basic Space offers a "white glove" service to sellers, sending a branded SUV to their home to pick up items, editing the final selection at the offices and uploading the goods to the app for final price, text and imagery approval.
"The pieces that I actually sell on Basic Space are really awesome pieces," explains Miro, over the phone from LA. "It's not like some used and abused crappy shoe that I wore for 10 years. It's really nice stuff that I have mostly received from working with other brands."
While the Basic Space seller list is currently limited to just friends and family, Lee is open to referrals and will make certain exceptions, like when Nasty Gal founder, best-selling author and vintage expert Sophia Amoruso expressed interest in joining. "Of course, we allowed her to be a seller and she gave us a ton of good stuff," says Lee. A quick browse through her offerings shows Alexander Wang leather trousers (modeled by Amoruso, $300), an '80s Thierry Mugler cut-out dress ($140) and about 500 fisherman's sweaters ($60 to $80).
Lee also looks at the shopping app as not just a way for an influencer to make extra money — Basic Space takes 20 percent of every sale — but also as another channel for, well, influencing and branding. "[Shopping on Basic Space] is less of finding a random thing you might be looking for and more of becoming interested in what a particular influencer has in their wardrobe," says Miro, whose Basic Space campaign billboard will be popping up on LA's Fairfax Ave soon. Lee also says that his trusted network of influencer sellers inherently boost the level of quality of Basic Space's inventory.
"Sellers have been competitive without knowing that they're being competitive with each other," says Lee, about his friends noticing their friends' items. "They start taking down the shittier items and cheaper items and start putting in the better stuff," he continues. He says this dynamic also helps with ensuring the authenticity of, say, model Lilah Summer's Mansur Gavriel bucket bag ($300) or Miro's Saint Laurent Love Mini Bag ($850). It's all about keeping up with the influencer's reputation.
"If Sophia or [A Bikini A Day founder] Devin Brugman or Purienne is selling stuff on our app, their name is attached to it, so they're never going to sell anything fake or not in good condition," explains Lee. He points out that in the four weeks since launching — and over the busy holiday season — there have been "zero complaints." All sales are final, but Lee emphasizes Basic Space's customer service. Four staffers, including himself, regularly monitor and respond to the live chat requests, which lately tend to inquire about specific sizing information. (The product details are pretty minimal at this point and you can't filter by size.)
Speaking of sizing, shoppers on Basic Space may notice that most of Lee's network of female sellers fall in the size zero-to-four range. He's aware of the lack of size diversity, which he attributes to the app being in its start-up phase. "We want to be diverse and open up [the sellers network] to all kinds of people and categories," he says.
Next up, Miro is planning on introducing a moto-jacket style from a French leather brand in her store and she'll make a cut of those profits. "It's a cool, natural, organic way to promote another brand instead of being like, 'hey, this brand is paying me to post a picture,'" says Miro. Lee calls the arrangement a "win-win-win" for seller, brand and buyer. The seller and Basic Space would split the 50 percent of sales, after the brand takes its 50-percent wholesale margin.
"Brands win because they don't ever have to pay [influencers] to endorse [them] anymore," Lee says, giving another example. "They'll just sell it through [the influencer], so everybody makes their money without spending money, and most importantly, the consumers win because instead of looking at what [and influencer] posted on Instagram and going to Opening Ceremony to buy that jacket, they can just buy it straight from him through our app."
Lee appreciates the "complementary" relationship between The dFm and Basic Space, but the two entities are separate, with the latter registered as its own Delaware C Corp and housed on a different floor in the same downtown LA building. Lee says he has secured "a couple investors" for Basic Space already and, at the time of our conversation, was heading up to Silicon Valley to pitch more. From there, he'll continue growing his influencer seller network, organically.
"These are real relationships," says Lee. "But more importantly, we're also trying to help them continue to monetize their influence." As they say, you can always count on your friends.
UPDATE, Jan. 23: Representatives for Diplo have confirmed to Fashionista that Diplo has no official affiliation to Basic Space and his presence is being removed from the app.