Democracy. Community. Independent. Vote.
These aren’t words that we generally find associated with the world of fashion; they’re more likely to be mentioned in reference to something government-related.
However, there’s an emerging sector in the Third Wave Fashion world where these words are essential; an innovative place where sovereignty is handed to the people and the previously-unknown can triumph.
Leading this revolution is FashionStake – a business borne out of exasperation at the lack of visibility available to small independent designers.
Together, Founder Vivian Weng and CEO Daniel Gulati have created a platform for what they call “designer direct fashion”, a direct connection between designers and their existing and potential fans. FashionStake tears down the barriers between these two worlds, allowing both sides to benefit.
We got the scoop from Vivan, who answered our Startup Seven questions.
New York, NY —
TWF: Tell us about your company.
VW: FashionStake is a crowd-curated marketplace for independent fashion designers. We work with over 350 emerging designers from around the world (from over 15 countries) and bring their amazing and unique pieces onto one platform for fashionistas to shop from.
TWF: If you can describe your company in 5 words, what would they be?
TWF: Tell us about your team. Who does what and how do you manage your staff?
VW: We’re a super small team so everyone wears many hats! Daniel is our CEO and focuses mostly on technology and the website. We’re constantly thinking of what new features to build in to serve our customers and designers better. I (Vivian) manage the designer relations team and also work on business partnerships. Shahi is the head merchandiser; she has AMAZING style (she can literally wear anything and look amazing) and is constantly on the look-out for new design talent. Cassie is our social media guru. She is constantly brainstorming new ways to engage our community online and have a constant dialogue with our members.
TWF: What is unique about your company?
VW: We give independent designers a way to connect with customers – customers who may have never heard of them if not for our site. We do a lot of thinking around which designers and products to bring onto our site, so we make sure that everything meets a certain standard in terms of design and craftsmanship. That means that customers can shop comfortably, knowing that even though these designers are emerging, they’ve been pre-screened. We also allow our community to vote on their favorite designers and pieces, and we use this feedback to determine what to bring onto our site. We love our community and every member has an opportunity to tell us what she wants to see on the site on a daily basis through our Voting Booth.
TWF: What are your future plans?
VW: We want to expand the number of designers we’re working with, to truly become an online destination and a global marketplace. We hope to work with thousands of emerging designers from all over the world, including student designers.
TWF: Tell us about the market you’ve been trying to target and the response you’ve gotten so far.
VW: We have been so grateful for our community of fashionistas who are super passionate about independent fashion. We’re really targeting customers who are looking for unique pieces in today’s world of ‘fast fashion’. We think of ourselves as leading a ‘slow fashion’ movement: designers who have stories behind the pieces they design, and who carefully produce their products. The response has been amazing so far, both from within the US and outside, and we’re looking forward to continuing to grow.
TWF: What things inspire you the most, whether in business or in life?
VW: We’re inspired by our designers’ stories. Fashion is a hard business and definitely not as glamorous as most people think it is, and to be an independent designer you have to have passion. I’m constantly amazed at how passionate our designers are, how much of a story there is behind each piece of clothing. I’m also inspired by other entrepreneurs who have started businesses that have shaped industries. It takes courage and hard work, and their stories inspire us to keep doing what we’re doing.
We love FashionStake’s empowering business model and their dedication to the people and stories behind the clothes. We’ll keep watching how they leverage technology to power their artisanal ‘slow fashion’ model. Whether for academic or sartorial reasons, we recommend checking them out! (FashionStake.com, Twitter, Facebook)
This is part of our ‘Startup Seven’ series, in which we ask the founders our favorite startups about what makes them great. Find more of these interviews here!
Third Wave Fashion has been your fashion tech think tank since 2011. We publish the first ever printed fashion tech magazine, Third Wave. Follow us on Twitter or subscribe to our newsletter to stay on top of the latest in fashion tech + wearables.