WWD | SHARON EDELSON
First consumers, then business people in general and now there are a slew of new fashion industry-specific Web sites springing up that combine marketplaces with social media.
Consumers, designers and retailers have embraced e-commerce, Facebook and Twitter, yet most in the industry are still using outdated tools to perform their jobs. For example, buyers still generally rely on pencil and paper to write orders.
BrandOrders.com, created by retail and fashion executives, is a wholesale online community for brands and stores to increase buying efficiencies, with a social media component as well. The site is targeting high-end labels and retailers, with Barneys New York and Showroom Seven participating in the test phase.
BrandOrders will go live in the spring, with 75 brands from Prêt à Porter, a trade show in Paris, and its New York show, The Train/The Box. Lilla P, Pure Amici, Real Truth, Lauren Balgiore and Tiia Vanhatapio are among the site’s apparel vendors, while Lockhart, Jennifer Elizabeth, Abas, Pono and Lexi Lu represent accessories and jewelry resources, said Lincoln Brown, BrandOrders’ chairman.
Brown, a venture capitalist whose Next Generation Ventures invests in fledgling firms, is funding BrandOrders.com.
BrandOrders founder and chief executive officer Chris Guerra got the idea for the site after accompanying his mother to trade shows and buying trips for Bamboo Clothiers, the stores he and his parents own in South Florida. “When we got home, I watched mom piece together orders with carbon paper all over the place,” said Guerra. “She wrote orders and faxed them in. This [site] eases some of the pain of the wholesale buying process.”
“We saw an opportunity to create a platform for brands and retailers to interact and communicate,” said Robert Burke, a former senior vice president of fashion and public relations at Bergdorf Goodman, who now owns a retail and consumer products consulting firm and is working on the project. “I’m an old war horse retailer who writes orders by hand. The goal now is to have as lean an inventory as possible, but not so lean that you can’t maintain proper stock levels. BrandOrders allows retailers to communicate more quickly.”
Brands can post new items on the site and retailers can search for products by showroom, trade show or product category. “This is a cross between Facebook and Amazon for the wholesale industry,” Guerra said.
Communications between parties is private, but the format offers opportunities for networking. Brands can view a retailer’s inventory, see what’s selling and what’s not selling, and suggest ways in which their products might best be sold. BrandOrders is charging wholesalers about $200 a month for the service, and it will be free to retailers. A cell phone app is coming in the fall.
As a buyer at Mimi Maternity and Ann Taylor, much of Mona BiJoor’s time was spent rushing to showroom appointments, poring over line sheets and scouting emerging talent. She conceived of Joor, an online contemporary fashion network, “to eliminate multiple pain points such as line sheets and phone calls,” she said. “This is a tool I wanted when I was a buyer.” Boutiques can use Joor to search for new designers, view collections and manage transactions. Designers can search for new boutiques and display their collections. Like an online dating service, brands and buyers must request a match before mutual access is granted. The site has 75 designers who pay an annual fee, which Joor declined to disclose, and 500 boutiques.
Another similar site is Afingo.com, which launched last month at MAGIC and “connects the dots for people,” said Liza Deyrmenjian, ceo and co-founder. “It’s a Web-based roundtable where all four building blocks of the fashion world — designers, retailers, professionals in the industry and consumers — meet.”
Parts of Afingo.com are free to consumers, but access to special events, sample sales and special designer-retailer offers requires a subscription for $49 a year. Designers, retailers and suppliers pay $299 a year.