Moda Operandi Lets You Buy Fashion Week Looks, Now

Editor’s Note: Event Partnerships Manager Leslie Hitchcock is a non-editorial TechCrunch employee. In addition to working at TechCrunch and being super fashionable, she reviews startups and tech products occasionally on her personal blog, Leslie Just Joined.

Have you ever been at a New York Fashion Week runway show and been irritated that you can’t purchase a look from the collection right then and there? Oh. You haven’t? Well, then you probably haven’t heard of Moda Operandi, and that’s your misfortune.

There are First World Problems and then there are 1 percent problems. Moda Operandi, a fashion retail site co-founded by Lauren Santo Domingo of Vogue Magazine fame, solves both of them for the well-heeled (and incredibly impatient) fashionable set. And the company exhibited in Startup Alley at New York Disrupt 2011, so clearly they’re in the know. Now you can be, too.

As a loyal reader of Vogue, I did a dance for joy when Moda Operandi was announced in 2010. Bridging the pesky gap between fashion tech and fashion, the site’s premise is simple: In partnership with select designers, it offers up to 16 pieces straight off the runway in an online trunk show. The trunk shows are only open for three days. In that window, you can purchase the looks you want by paying half of the cost upfront and the other half when the garment ships.

The upside is clear: highly coveted, exclusive looks that can be ordered directly upon collection presentation.

The downside? The pieces aren’t shipped for months. MONTHS. Which makes sense, if you understand runway shows. The garments sashaying down the catwalk are meant for production for the following season. This arcane system has been in place for decades and makes less sense now that collections are streamed, Instagrammed and tweeted immediately. But that is how the industry works.

After a few years of watching Moda Operandi grow, and not pulling the trigger on a purchase, I was finally ready to place my first order last summer. The site is well-designed and mimics most online retailers in its layout. Most looks are displayed as whole outfits, and when you click, you’re able to look at, say, a coat, blouse and trousers from a particular outfit. I like seeing what the designer had envisioned even if I’m hesitant to wear one brand from head to toe.

A daily email is sent out each morning announcing the sales that opened and those upcoming. My hook was Tibi, a fast-growing clothier whose pieces are a mix of whimsical prints and lush fabrics that I can seldom resist. The sale opened in early July 2012. As I’m understated in my fashion choices, I homed in on a silk faille ball skirt in a bright red color.

I happily entered my payment information and clicked “submit.” The glow wore off when I received my confirmation email.

Delivery window from October through JANUARY?!? Le sigh.

A season passes. Summer becomes autumn, autumn winds its way toward winter. And then I receive shipping verification. It was like a surprise present in the mail! For the record, it was shipped on November 22, 2012. The skirt was everything I had imagined. I’ve worn it to appropriate places like the ballet.

Image by Colleen Stockmann

Random places such as to an upscale pizzeria with sneakers and a t-shirt.

To a holiday celebration at my grandmother’s house. (By the way, I’m blonde now.)

2012-12-25 13.52.15

In short, I love it. And I love how easy Moda Operandi made it for me to buy something that I wear so frequently.

The process was not without disappointments, though. While some of the pieces a designer offers through Moda Operandi are not planned to be mass-produced, many do end up as part of that season’s wares. This particular skirt is a top seller on the Tibi website and was available for purchase directly through the brand considerably earlier than it was delivered to me. If I’d known that was going to be the case, I might have waited, but in all honesty it was nice to be able to in effect layaway a garment and not feel the sting of a more pricey item all at once.

Also, I received a shipping notification but no tracking code. The skirt arrived a week or so after the first shipping alert email, almost by sneak attack. That part of the process could be more user-friendly.

Watching Moda Operandi as I have through the years, I’ve seen it grow beyond simple trunk shows into boutiques where Santo Domingo identifies her favorite looks, which are then offered for longer periods than three days. One may browse by type of clothing rather than just by designer. The site is also beginning to support fashion from other countries, most notably celebrating Australian Fashion Week. I do love Australian designers!

Based on my experience, I’ll continue to actively pursue a future purchase on Moda Operandi. And I’m very excited to see how they expand next!