Reinventing how women shop
Two enterprising young women, of Loop de Luxe, are part of the movement to change how we women shop. The pair are providing opportunities for new and upcoming designers to showcase their products online. Loop de Luxe gives women the opportunity to buy unique clothes, jewelry and other items that they might not otherwise find in stores.
The company is the brainchild of Ali Garrity and Ashleigh Snead, friends from high school. Both 30, the Loop de Luxe founders are traveling the entrepreneurial route because they have nothing to lose and everything to gain. Ali and Ashleigh, A2 I call them, epitomize the young, raw talent and energy that is driving more young people to considering doing it on their own rather than working for the man. And it’s great to see a couple of women embark upon the entrepreneurial path because we have too few women willing to do this. Why waste 50% of our population when they too could be coming up with and implanting great ideas that will affect us all!
A2 goal with Loop de Luxe (LdL) is to match-make between indie designers and customers. These designers may already be selling in boutiques and on their own sites, but their products are not featured online in a cooperative way with other designers. The opportunity, as A2 see it, is to “Create a place where women can view multiple designers and buy unique and unusual clothes [and other items] that help them achieve their own goals of self-expression.” The value proposition is clear for both the suppliers – the indie designers who will garner more business – and the consumers, who will be able to buy items that they can’t find today. You probably already know this but the mass market is out. Local, unique, boutique is in.
LdL does not compete directly with Gilt Groupe because the latter focuses on name brands. LdL is targeting women in their 20s, 30s, and maybe even 40s, who want to embrace fashion without paying the price for high-end designers. A2 know that there is lots of competition. “This is a super crowded space. We are not very specialized. But we like to think that we can be unique because of our focus on designers. We tell the story behind the design. We inspire people with the content on our site. We really are like curators about what gets on the site.”
Both ladies have experience with brands and fashion. I know Ali from Carnegie Mellon, where she was my student a few years ago. Taking entrepreneurship was important for her because she really wanted to do something big. Ashleigh is already an entrepreneur, having founded her own line of children’s clothing. Her customers include large chains like Nordstrom and small boutiques all over the world. Four years ago, Asheigh was new to entrepreneurship and she went back to school to get her MBA from NYU after her first year in business. She needed mentoring and coaching. She needed finance and marketing skills. Entrepreneurs always know to ask for help! She got it and has made her business a modest success. More importantly, she has become experienced in sourcing, supply chain, marketing, distribution, customer development, and customer service. “I come from the side of the vendor. I am familiar with all of the online and retail stores; I have worked with all of them, selling my product to them. I have seen from the vendor side what works, what doesn’t and what they need.”
Ashleigh’s success in children’s clothes provided a foundation for LdL as she and Ali started a coast-to-coast conversation about starting the business. Ali is in LA; Ashleigh is in NYC. The two cities are the fashion capitals in the US. Ashleigh already has experience with managing long distance business partnerships as one of her lines of children’s clothes had a West Coast partner. “Covering both coasts is a real advantage,” Ashleigh assures me. “We can do more trade shows and events than we could otherwise.”
Loop de Luxe is brand new. The company just launched its beta site in August. They were seeded with a bit of friends and family money and have bootstrapped their way along the past couple of years. But they have big dreams. Right now all the items are made in America. They see this as an advantage, but it was not by design.
They know that there is a need because they have this need and they are the market. Ali tells me, “I have a few wonderful and unique pieces in my wardrobe, and every time that I would refer people to those labels, the designers were hard to find. They hardly have a website, they are hard to track down, and I got the idea that if they were on a website with other designers it would become a destination for people like me”.
The pair are focused on populating their site with designer items and they are obsessed with driving traffic to the LdL site. A2 have strong marketing backgrounds to draw upon, so LdL marketing employs strategies from viral marketing to incentive programs for purchases, referrals, and returning customers – Loop de Luxe bucks. They also leverage the local press for designers who might be in areas outside of typical fashion zones. “And Facebook is key,” Ali reminds me.
Ali and Ashleigh are doing what they love. In a field where it is easy to trivialize what they do – online clothing sales – they have brought an artistic and discriminating sensibility that is appealing to the discerning shopper. LdL faces all of the usual entrepreneurial struggle: funding, building out the team, finding customers, supply chain, and just getting the site to work. It is easy for me to critique their site and point out that it lacks focus around a particular type of item. I see purses, booties, jewelry and not enough clothes. “But we’re just beginning,” Ai assures me. “You just wait.” I will. It’s impossible to not love them and embrace their efforts wholeheartedly, including with a purchase!