Online Fashion Exchange Bib + Tuck Addicts Shoppers With Virtual Currency, Scores $600,000 From Chris Burch & Others

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The re-commerce sector just got another vote of confidence, this time from billionaire fashion mogul J. Christopher Burch, who along with a couple of angels have put in $600,000 in seed funding into the online women’s clothing consignment shop Bib + Tuck. The service, first launched in November 2012, attempts to bridge the gap between  high-end luxury marketplaces and those that appeal to “fast fashion” consumers like Poshmark or Threadflip, for example.

The two founders, Sari Azout and Sari Bibliowicz (who yes, go by “Sari A.” and “Sari B.”), have had the idea for some time and were experimenting with early models of the service as far back as 2011 when Vogue spotted their work. However, the site itself only launched in November 2012.

Both longtime friends and fellow New York-based, self-described “shopaholics,” the women built Bib + Tuck because it was something they wanted for themselves as young professionals (Sari A. was a bonds trader, Sari B. worked at Gilt) who didn’t have a lot of money to spend on fashion.

“We really fell in love with this concept of shopping without spending, and shopping your best friend’s closet.” explains Azout. “We never anticipated building what is today Bib + Tuck from that,” she admits.

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The “shopping without spending” concept Azout is referring to is the site’s built-in almost game-like experience where users sell items in exchange for virtual currency called “bucks,” which they can then spend on the other items for sale. Bib + Tuck doesn’t charge any membership fees, listing fees, or transaction fees, but rather sells the virtual “bucks ($1.00 = 1 buck) to members. That way, even those without items to sell can still shop, while others can purchase the bucks they need to make up for the difference between the fashion they want and the bucks they have on hand.

In addition to shopping members’ closets, Bib + Tuck also offers editorially selected “featured closets” from notable industry names, whose items are sold via a concierge service.

Since November’s launch, the invite-only service has grown to over 12,000 members and around the same number of items, and it has seen over 3,000 transactions to date. The founders declined to disclose their revenues, but did say that already Bib + Tuck’s repeat business is high – over 60 percent of customers have returned for a second purchase. In addition, the current sell-through rate is 20 percent.

Bibliowicz attributes the “stickiness” of the site to its use of virtual credits. “We’ve been called the first gaming platform in the fashion space,” she says. “On the platform, it’s all about giving and taking, and it becomes very addicting to people to be able to shop without using any money. Once someone puts something up and sell it, they obviously can’t cash out because that’s not an option, so they’re hooked in and they feel like they’re getting free clothes,” Bibliowicz explains.

The site’s name – “Bib + Tuck” – refers to this give and take as well, the “bib” being the listing aspect and “tuck” for the sale.

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The founders say they decided to keep the seed round small on purpose, as they still want to prove the concept before raising more. Burch invested from his personal account, though his investment arm Burch Creative Capital has dabbled in tech and startups before, with investments in Bump.com, dining guide Ness and more, according to the firm’s website.

“Chris Burch understood our brand from day one – he knew we were going very deep into a specific demographic,” says Azout.

Now a team of six full-time with staff in New York and Miami, Bib + Tuck is preparing to drop the invite-only model later this summer, and open up more broadly to the public. The company will also start enforcing policies over brands it allows at that time – today, it’s a mix of high and low, with 40 percent of the site being designer labels, 20 percent vintage and the rest a mix of emerging designers. Currently, the site features brands like Alexander Wang, rag & bone, Reformation, Wildfox and others.

The company will also then launch an iPhone app, which Azout describes as having an “Instagram feel” and offering a one-click checkout.

For now, however, interested shoppers can request an invite here.

Online fashion consignment is a crowded space, with a number of newer competitors like The RealRealPoshmarkThreadflip, Twice, Material Wrld, ThreadUP and more, with similar ideas about shopping others’ closets. But, explains Azout, “a lot of the re-commerce companies out there are just services. We’re really trying to make ourselves a voice and connect with our customers.”