Peer-to-peer marketplaces. Content and commerce. Curation. Influencer marketing.
Material Wrld does all of that. The New York-based fashion startup launched today into a very crowded area — luxury consignment — and it’s tackling the market with ideas that are as trendy as the clothes it’s selling.
We’ve already seen a number of new “sell your stuff” players emerge to dethrone the anti-innovation incumbent, Craigslist. In fashion specifically, there is Threadflip, which simplifies reselling clothes from mall finds to designer bags. Refashioner focuses on couture. And of course Etsy (for vintage) and eBay (for anything) are still doing their respective things.
The problem with peer-to-peer marketplaces is that they require liquidity. PandoDaily’s summer intern learned this the hard way when she tried to sell a bunch of our stuff on the various new sites available. That’s why Craigslist has remained the king of everything from yard sales to apartment rentals while far superior marketplaces haven’t gained much traction. Craigslist has the buyers.
Material Wrld aims to lure in shoppers, and solve that problem, with content. The idea of content and commerce has been a favorite theme for talking heads at conferences for a few years now, but the dirty secret is that very few of the companies claiming to do it really, truly marry content with commerce.
For most companies, “content and commerce” means they’ve hired an editor to do an elaborate form of marketing. The content is still very much separate from the commerce. The logistics of integrating content and commerce is actually extremely difficult: Think about merging a word processing CMS with an ecommerce back end from Magento. (Unless you write for The Verge, SB Nation, or the Huffington Post, you probably hate your CMS; now throw in inventory, a shopping cart, and a payment system.) I’m told no existing solution actually provides this type of integration.
Material Wrld’s approach is that it is a content-sharing site first. Users can upload photos of their possessions as a way to brag and talk about about their style. The upload-as-a-brag is about as natural as anything we do on the Internet these days. Instagram, for example, is basically a “look how awesome I am, aren’t you jealous?” machine. Material Wrld will be one for clothes.
Once Material Wrld users add items to their closets, they can peek into their friends’ closets or those of prominent bloggers and fashionistas. Like every site built in the last six months, the closets look like Pinterest boards with your standard heart and comment buttons. The benefit of the casual, not-for-sale closet is that a user’s closet reflects their style and their favorite items, so they are more likely to promote their profiles. I know I feel lame promoting my Threadflip account — it’s not stuff I love or necessarily want associated with my online presence, it’s stuff I want someone else to pay me for.
The key to Material Wrld is that a user can decide to sell one of the items in her closet whenever she wants. She flips the “sell” switch, and a price now shows up on the item when its viewed. Even better, anyone who has “liked” or commented on it will get a notification that the item is now for sale, so there’s a built in group of potential buyers. Liquidity issue (hopefully) solved.
There is an important distinction in Material Wrld’s user base: To keep the quality of its market high, not everyone can become a seller. In fact, even the closet sharers must be approved before joining. The approval is based on quality of photos, co-founder Rie Yano says.
They’ve already had a handful of New York Internet darlings involved with their pop-up stores, which sold through 35 percent of their inventory. That figure is relatively high for a marketplace, Yano tells me. Her use of influencers (such as Pamela Castillo of Market Publique, pictured) is likely inspired by Yano’s experience doing marketing at Coach. The luxury brand has been a leader in working with fashion bloggers – who sometimes have bigger followings than glossy fashion magazines — to design their own bags, host events, and run promotional contests on their sites. She’s bringing that experience to her startup.
The site is expecting to close an angel round of funding next month.