There are subscription services for clothes, shoes, accessories, makeup, and even tampons, so why not one for handbags? That’s the premise, at least, behind a new startup called Ivory Clasp, which is promising to offer quality, stylish handbags that retail for over $100 for just $45 per month. The service sends name-brand bags, not knock-offs, and allows you to keep the purses you receive.
Like most subscription apparel and accessories services, Ivory Clasp starts off with a style quiz to learn your individual taste. This basically consists of you choosing the handbags you like best from a series of photos. This data helps the service send you those handbags you’ll like best in the future.
Subscribers can choose to pay $45 per month, or $45 bimonthly to receive a new bag every other month.
The bags are also in-season, as opposed to the older, excess inventory you’d find being sold off at retailers like TJ Maxx. In fact, the company promises that if you find the bag online anywhere – including Amazon – for less than $98, they’ll refund your money. And if you don’t like the bag you receive, you can also send it back for a full refund.
The idea for Ivory Clasp comes from Avi Zolty, previously the co-founder of the Y Combinator-backed startup Beatdeck, and car rental startup Skurt; along with Sean Rimokh, who is the son of Signal Brands‘ Chairman and CEO Jack Rimokh.
(Zolty, as you may recall, made a mistake in his early 20’s when he hacked investor Jason Calacanis’ voicemail as a prank, in hopes of getting attention for his startup. Calacanis later forgave him, and Zolty seems to have learned a lesson about when hustling crosses the line.)
Signal Brands, meanwhile, is one of the world’s largest handbag companies, which licenses the Guess?, Splendid, Ella Moss, Trina Turk and Isaac Mizrahi brands.
Not surprisingly, these same brands appear to be shipping via Ivory Clasp’s service. Splendid was the first one I received, for example.*
The founders couldn’t speak to Signal Brands’ relationship with Ivory Clasp, nor its investment situation, due to their licensing deals. However, it’s not a subsidiary of Signal Brands, and has its own agreements with the brands its ships.
Ivory Clasp also can’t exactly advertise which brands those are – that’s also part of the deal.
In other words, these brands involved don’t want to be associated with a “discount” service, but they’re happy to get their products into the hands of the right kind of customer. At other times, they can leverage Ivory Clasp’s need for inventory to bump up their minimum order quantity with factory suppliers in order to get better rates as needed.
While subscription handbags may sound like a bit of an unneeded luxury, it fits into a larger trend in e-commerce.
“The problem we’re solving is that there’s a new, 21st century girl who doesn’t have time to be super involved in fashion, or doesn’t have the money to spend on high-end bags or high-end clothing,” says Zolty. But at the same time, this customer doesn’t want to shop at discount stores, he says – they want current styles that are in fashion.
Ivory Clasp keeps around five or six styles on rotation at any time, in order to meet the style needs of customers, while also making sure customers don’t get the same brand every month.
The startup has been testing the service for a few months with over 300 active users, and has hit $10,000 in monthly recurring revenue.
What’s surprising is that 40% of customers have opted for the monthly subscription.
“The average women, regardless of price point or demographic, buys basically five to seven bags per year,” notes Rimokh. “So we launched this business with a bimonthly target,” he explains. But the founders decided to add the monthly option to see what would happen, and soon saw that only every 6 out of 10 users opted for bimonthly.
In addition, a small percentage (around 3-5%) start as bimonthly then upgrade to monthly, the realized.
“We say users are more likely to convert from bimonthly to monthly than to cancel,” Rimokh adds.
However, while Ivory Clasp may be doing well among early adopters, it will be challenged by the now numerous subscription clothing services like StitchFix, Le Tote, Rent the Runway, Trunk Club, and others, all which ship bags along with apparel. Whether it can carve out a niche for those who want the occasional handbag, and not one they pick out for themselves, still remains to be seen.
Ivory Clasp is backed by an undisclosed amount of seed funding.
The service is now publicly launching; using the code TECHCRUNCH will give you 25% off.
* Ivory Clasp didn’t charge me for the initial purchase so I could test the service. I’ve since given the handbag away.