Last year saw a major influx of new fashion-focused tech startups. With the early success of pioneers like Gilt Groupe and Ideeli, an industry that has typically been slow to embrace new technology has spawned a burgeoning community of game-changing ecommerce sites, mobile apps and social networking and discovery platforms. And with no shortage of new ideas or interest from financial backers, this influx shows no signs of slowing down in 2012--and we think that's very exciting. With new start-ups popping up almost daily, we set out to discover which ones are doing it right, how they’re all being funded, and what 2012 holds for the fashion tech biz.
Style Trek, a new hybrid e-commerce and social networking site, launched this week. Founder Cecilia Pagkalinawan, who previously helped market and launch ecommerce for Burberry, Frette and La Perla, describes the site as "Facebook meets Net-A-Porter for emerging designers." The site currently features collections from 20 designers across the globe, and the plan is to add more designers in the coming months. To call them all "emerging" designers would be a bit misleading though. Some, like Nicole Noselli and Daphne Gutierrez who design Bruce, are better described as "re-emerging"--their line Bruce picked up a CFDA award back in 2001, they took a break for a while, and now they're back. Mexican design duo Rafa Cuevas and Roberto Sanchez's line Teamo (as in "te amo") is big in Mexico but they're looking to reach consumers in the states. Pagkalinawan finds designers through tips from industry insiders. Buyers pass along designers they like but can't stock because they're either too small or they've already reached capacity for their contemporary floors. Hopefully, they find a home on Style Trek. While most ecommerce sites simply curate merchadise, Style Trek aims to allow shoppers and designers to communicate and engage with one another. Designers have profile pages so consumers get a better sense of the personality behind the product. Consumers can become "Style Trekkers" and create their own profiles to connect with other shoppers and designers, and "like" products, which allows Style Trek to track trends and adjust inventory accordingly.
Think you've got a buyer's eye? FashionStake, a new e-commerce/micro-finance site launching today, wants to give you the opportunity to make runway looks a reality. It's a complicated premise, but its founders, two recent Harvard Business School graduates, believe it'll work. Co-founders Vivian Weng and Daniel Gulati want to create a place both emerging and established designers can raise funds to produce new collections, and also a place to sell those collections. Users can either put in an initial investment, put in a pre-order for the soon-to-be designed collection, or wait until the collection is available to buy something. The goal is to spread the word about designers who mightn't have otherwise been able to spread it. And this New York Fashion Week, designers like Nicholas K will send pieces specifically designed for FashionStake down the runway. Consumers will be able to visit the site after the show and pre-order those pieces. Still a bit confused? I recently chatted with Weng about FashionStake's launch, its involvement in New York Fashion Week, and how it plans to make money. Hopefully she'll be able to clear things up: