Each week, we’re going to take a look at a different online retail business that stands out from the clamor of the Web. To kick off this new feature, we’ve interviewed the founder of Fashism.com.
Fashism is a site for soliciting style advice, though its founder and CEO Brooke Moreland admits she hardly posts her own fashion questions anymore: “I repeat my outfits so often, everyone on Fashism has already seen everything I own.” Instead, she focuses now on responding daily to her members’ outfit queries.
That’s quite a task, since Fashism has around 50,000 registered users. The site invites them to submit photos of themselves wearing an outfit, and to ask the site community a question – does this fit right? Do you like the color? Too many ruffles? Does it work?
For their part, responders can leave productive comments, or simply click “love it” or “hate it.” While you have to register in order to post and comment, any visitor can vote. Registered users also earn points for their site activity, which can earn them discounts or gift certificates from partner retailers.
With such an extensive following — Fashism’s mobile app has been downloaded about 80,000 times — we wanted to ask Moreland how the site came together and where it’s going next.
The High Low: How did the site begin and get funded? And how did getting funded change the business?
Brooke Moreland: So last summer we began getting some good press. We were featured in the Style section of the New York Times, as well as on The Early Show and Good Morning America. This put us in the public eye and we started to get some interest from investors. We quickly realized that taking outside capital would allow us to realize some of our goals for the site. With money we were able to hire a full time CTO, iPhone developers and other contractors. Ashley [Granata, Fashism's Chief Marketing Officer] and I are not technical, so money allows us to beef up on the tech resources to make the site and the app run.
[Fashism received $1 million in backing from Ashton Kutcher's investment fund, A Grade Investments, and from fashion editor Nina Garcia, Ron Conway’s SV Angel, High Line Venture Partners, Vast Ventures, NV Investments, and the Barbarian Group's Rick Webb.]
THL: What’s your upcoming revenue model?
BM: There are a few. One thing that we are trying out now is having a brand sponsor different programs on the site. Right now we are doing a partnership with Lord & Taylor for prom. It’s called “Got Dibs,” as in “Hey, I got dibs on that purple sweetheart gown — hands off!” The program allows high school girls to ‘claim’ their prom dress so no one at school buys the same dress. We also suggest dresses on the Lord & Taylor site so girls can find dresses similar to the ones they like on [Fashism].
THL: How do you approach these retailers about partnerships?
BM: A lot of times they approach us. Or someone we know does an intro to a brand that would be a good fit for our users. We are finding that a lot of the brands and retailers that our users like are open to doing innovative stuff on the web, which is great news for us.
THL: The site also seems to get a lot of requests for hair advice. Any specific plans to move into beauty territory?
BM: Yes. People always ask about their hair, nails and makeup. We definitely want to do more partnerships in that area in the future.
THL: Are you going to start selling anything on the site?
BM: Possibly. Not in the immediate future.
THL: How do most users come to Fashism — Facebook, Twitter, word-of-mouth?
BM: Most people come to the site directly. But yes, Facebook and Twitter send traffic as well. I think our partnerships have been the best for sending traffic. Especially when we work with a brand or personality that has a huge following. For example, we are doing a giveaway with Lady Gaga for tickets to all of the shows on her tour. As you can imagine people are going nuts. It’s great, because she has such an active and creative fan base. It’s so much fun having those guys on the site!
THL: Do you have more commenters than posters, or the other way around? Are there any trends in how people use the site?
BM: We have way more commenters, because pretty much everyone comments, but not everyone posts. People use the site in many different ways. Some do daily outfit photos, some only when they have a big job interview or date. Some people post pics of what they are shopping for online and some people want to ask about their makeup. It’s all over the place.
THL: Fashism invites constructive commentary only. Do you have to do much in the way of mediation?
BM: Not really. The users do a good job of sticking up for each other. We also have moderators on the site, so when people act up we kick them off.
THL: Overall, Fashism seems to attract more women then men. Do you think it’ll stay that way?
BM: Women are more naturally drawn to the site, that’s for sure. But guys do post too! My favorite posts are from guys — you know, regular dudes who just want to know if their tie matches? Those warm my heart.