E-Commerce Startup Material Wrld Opens up Fashionistas’ Closets

4/23/12Follow @xconomy

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10 sellers—including fashion bloggers, designers, even a prominent DJ—and also offered “fun interview content along the lines of a fashion blog,” she says. “We want to get it right with a small group before taking it to the next level.”

Material Wrld’s next online pop-up shop will be in early May. The startup will launch its iPhone app later this spring, featuring 100 handpicked sellers. The company will be testing out different models for selling, by offering a full service where it holds and lists inventory and ships it out once purchased, or where sellers ship items themselves with a Netflix-esque prepaid package, Zheng says.

Material Wrld joins a slew of other HBS entrepreneurs starting companies at the intersection of fashion and tech. Zheng says this energy from hers and Yano’s alma mater helped her jump into the startup world. Zheng left her job leading international marketing at J.Crew in mid-February and previously worked for Polo Ralph Lauren, while Yano is still wrapping up her job in digital marketing at Coach.

“I definitely think the fellow entrepreneurs in our class—Birchbox and BaubleBar—played a big role in my interest in entrepreneurship, and my comfort in being able to leave a very sexy, glamorous, solid corporate job,” Zheng says.

That experience working for fashion brands could ultimately be a big boost for Material Wrld. “We believe there’s a huge opportunity to partner with fashion brands on creative marketing opportunities once we’ve built our Material Wrld community,” says Zheng. “Rie and I have good connections to many brands.”

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  • http://twitter.com/jamescropcho James Cropcho

    This startup is not the same as Fashism, Pose, and Go Try It on, and it doesn’t have to be, either. It’s a peer-to-peer clothing marketplace, not a platform for people to get and give fashion advice to each other. It may have Pose-esque features baked in, but it largely seems to be doing its own thing.

    Not sure why the founders/reporter want to position this like an also-ran when they can accurately convey it as something new and more unique than that.

  • http://www.xconomy.com/author/ekutz/ Erin Kutz

    Thanks for reading James! I fully agree with you that Material Wrld is not the same as these other apps, and the founders didn’t position it as so. I mentioned them to point out that social shopping apps and features are plentiful. I think the rest of the story goes on to show how Material Wrld differentiates by mixing an actual commerce site with some of these social outfit sharing elements. In any event, fashion tech startups are cropping up everywhere, so I wanted to show some of the broader playing field.

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  • http://www.dailygrommet.com Jules Pieri, CEO Daily Grommet

    Thanks for the story Erin. I was judging the HBS Alumni New Ventures competition yesterday. The alums and students of that school are going at fashion/tech startups with a vengeance. The vintage and stilettos look was decidedly declasse when I was an HBS student…this is refreshing to see. Also, just want to tip in a more advanced offering in the competitive set for MaterialWrld: Style.ly out of San Francisco is a close comp. It’s an Accel/Harrison Metal investment headed by an ex eBay-er. Polyvore and Etsy (with its own emphasis on vintage) are portfolio companies to Style.ly.

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