High-End Fashion Startup Material Wrld Makes Its Official Debut

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Material Wrld, the fashion startup seed funded by Warby Parker and Bonobos investor Great Oaks VC, is today making its public debut. The e-commerce site has come a long way since the beta it had running late last year, and to kick off its launch, the company is introducing a number of new features to help its fashion community discover new styles, ideas and people to follow.

The marketplace was founded by Rie Yano and Jie Zheng, who met while in grad school at Harvard. Both had worked in the fashion industry themselves – Yano in digital media marketing at Coach, and Zheng at Ralph Lauren and J Crew.

As the company name hints, the site plans to go after an international audience. And Yano tells us that currently, some 30 percent of the service’s traffic comes from outside the U.S., despite the Material Wrld’s still heavy New York focus.

“We’re aggressive about entering new markets,” explains Yano, “because at the end of the day, a marketplace is only exciting when it’s international. More than half of eBay sales are done internationally,” she adds. “From the beginning, our business model has been about allowing people to discover and purchase from anywhere in the world.”

The service is going after the high-end fashion consumer, allowing them to photograph and share the items in their closet, and then sell those items to other users in a peer-to-peer marketplace setting. It’s a concept that’s been tried before from startups like Poshmark, ThreadflipTwice, and even kids’ clothes marketplace like ThredUp. But Yano notes that Material Wrld isn’t going after “fast fashion,” as she calls it; it’s very brand and quality conscious. Price points for clothes on sites like Poshmark tend to fall in the $20 to $30 range, she remarks, while on Material Wrld, it’s much higher.

“We’re not disclosing our sales figures yet, but our average order price is around $100,” Yano says. “And we’re actually focused on bringing that average order price up. We’re differentiating ourselves from the rest of the resale space, which is much more like ‘thrifting’ than ‘luxury consigning,’”

With today’s official debut, the site is offering its early adopters half a dozen new features, including real-time notifications of site activity, in a style similar to what you would see on Facebook, a personalized “live feed” of the closets and groups you’re following, also reminiscent of Facebook’s News Feed, and more.

MW_HomePage1

A “Style Groups” section, meanwhile, is more inspired by Meetup.com, as it also allows for a group creator to serve as admin to a variety of groups like “fashion bloggers,” “artists,” “Lucky Magazine,” “We work in fashion,” “OOTD Mag,” and others. Though anyone can follow the group’s output, membership is controlled and entrants have to answer a trio of questions, similar in style to those asked when applying for membership to closed groups on Meetup.

Some of these groups are already crossing over into the offline world as well – for instance, Material Wrld is hosting a “re-closet” party at the Steven Alan Tribeca showroom in New York in April.

MW_StyleGroups

With the new site, buyers and sellers are gaining better tools, too, including seller reviews, person-to-person messaging, and a pricing database that helps sellers’ determine their items’ worth. Fashion shoppers can play with “closet roulette” on the homepage – a discovery feature that lets you click to circle through users’ shared, shoppable items.

Yano says more is to come in the near future, including for example, filtering the “item feed” by type (shirts, skirts, shoes, etc.), as well as a new “make an offer” option, which will arrive in a week or so. This latter feature will allow buyers to ask to purchase showcased items from others’ closets which are not explicitly marked for sale.

“The reason why we’re doing the showcase is that we know for a lot of people, there’s a time gap between loving what you’ve purchased and that item just hanging in your closet, with you not even realizing that this could be sold,” Yano explains.

During its beta, Material Wrld has seen over 100,000 visitors, 10,000 of whom registered for accounts. After hand-curating who could then sell their items, the site ended up with 300 closets (sellers) on board. The next steps, now that it’s officially “open” to the public is a focus on user growth, Yano tells us. Given that the service will monetize via a 15 percent transaction fee on sales, this part is mission critical.

Over the course of the year, Material Wrld will also debut on mobile, and launch internationally. Japan will be the first overseas market targeted, we hear.

Today, however, the startup takes its first steps with the newly relaunched site. Interested users can join Material Wrld here.