500 Startups-Backed Italist Is Like Shopping The Streets Of Italy, But Online

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Despite the brand recognition of Italian luxury fashion brands like Dolce & Gabbana, Prada, and Valentino, there is no online aggregation of exclusively Italian luxury fashion. 500 Startups-backed Italist is trying to change that.

The Italian luxury fashion retail market is worth $21 billion, according to Italist founder Raffaele Giovine, and a third of that comes from independent Italian retailers. Still, less than five percent of their total sales are online. Part of that likely has to do with the price of these products, usually exceeding $300 on the accessory level, but the other part has to do with the in-person experience of shopping in these Italian boutiques.

As people continue to become more comfortable with shopping online, even for luxury items, Giovine believes that Italist has the opportunity to build a $1 billion business.

The platform allows retailers to take full control of what they put in Italist’s virtual mall, taking their own photos and selecting their inventory. Plus, Italist encourages their retailers to include extra information on their pieces, including materials used, the story of how it was designed, or the history of the brand itself.

“I want it to mimic the experience of actually walking the streets of Milan and stepping into various boutiques, learning about the brands and feeling the excellent materials,” said Giovine.

Giovine spent years consulting for Bain & Company before breaking out and starting his own company Zero9. It was an early play in the mobile premium services business, selling premium content to phone owners, that exited in 2009. Italist is his latest project, and so far the company has received $500K from 500 Startups as well as angels Leonardo Etro and Ennio Doris.

Since launching beta January of last year, part of which was a beta test, Italist has grown to a $1m revenue run rate, with over 70 boutiques on the platform and 200 waiting to be added. There are 20 different brands on board and many more waiting in the wings.

They’ve just launched so head over and grab yourself some fine driver loafers or a fancy sweater today.