When we heard the founders of the online fashion community UsTrendy had relocated the company to the Bay Area this year, we immediately wanted to learn more about the social networking-driven site’s offerings for emerging and independent designers and their fans.
The site allows allows users to review, rate and purchase art, apparel and accessories by artists, independent clothing and accessories designers and rate models who create profiles on the site. Each season, UsTrendy produces select items of clothing and accessories that have received top rankings from site users. Top-rated designs such as the look shown here by annyshka can also win their creators cash prizes ($100 is awarded to a winning design each week) and other perks like spots in UsTrendy fashion shows.
We caught up with UsTrendy founder Sam Sisakhti recently to ask some questions about the site and how it works. He and his team were kind enough to answer. Read on…
Can any designer sell work on UsTrendy?
Yes, anyone can sell and post on UsTrendy. We do not want to restrict or put any restrictions on who can post or sell on our site. The whole point of UsTrendy was to create an open system where the people are the judge rather than a select few. We also want to allow any designer to pursue their dreams and gain exposure to further them in their craft.
Say we want to buy an item, but have a question or special request for the designer. Can we interact with designers directly?
Yes, you can interact directly with the designers. Part of the purpose for the website is to allow consumers to directly interact with designers. We want to bring the two together. It will be beneficial to designers to hear direct, firsthand feedback from consumers, and it will be a neat treat for consumers to be able to talk directly to a designer whose clothing they wear.
How does UsTrendy use social networking to its advantage? Why, for example, would we want to follow UsTrendy on Twitter? What’s in it for us?
We want to use social networking as a way to keep in touch with our user base and update them on the exciting developments going on with UsTrendy. We also poll users and give away cash prizes to users with the best suggestions on topics that are only seen on Twitter.
But even more importantly, we use the social networking such as Twitter to connect one on one with our users and find out their likes and dislikes. For our users to connect with us on a personal level and for us to hear exactly what they are thinking. The social networking is a way for us to connect in a more peer to peer way because at end of day we are a lot like our users: people who are passionate about fashion and dedicated to helping indie designers gain exposure.
We hear UsTrendy is showcasing some of its most popular designers in a Las Vegas fashion show early next year. What’s the event all about?
At UsTrendy we are trying to create as many opportunities for designers as possible whether it be production, cash funding, education, etc. So knowing first hand that many designers dream of one day having their own runway show in a major fashion week, we have partnered with Vegas Fashion week and will giving the winning UsTrendy designer their own runway show in one of the biggest fashion weeks in the country. Through the show they can gain exposure to major retailers and buyers and make a big step forward in their career. We have been blown away with the excitement among the designers on our site regarding this competition.
How many designers are currently selling their work on UsTrendy?
We have over 7,000 designers on the site (this number is growing rapidly) and about a third of them are selling their work on the site. The remaining two thirds are using the site to gain exposure, enter into contests, gain customer feedback, gain funding and gain production.
The company recently relocated to the San Francisco Bay Area. Will we find UsTrendy at any upcoming local events?
Yes, we recently moved to Bay Area and we are looking not only to attend local events, but we want to help and support designers locally through some specific Bay Area competitions and contests geared towards the Bay Area Design community.
And one more question after the jump….
How are today’s fashion consumers different from those of past decades?
I had our VP of Retail Development answer this questions so it is a bit more technical and long.
Multichannel retailing truly speaks to the shopper of today, versus the shopper of 30 years ago.
As new technology is introduced everyday and as more people are growing up with only knowing a high-tech world, the old school (and new) retailers come across the challenge of keeping up with their tech-savvy ways. Unlike the older generation that had to grow to trust an online transaction, the consumer of today shops on the Internet without even batting an eye. They are less risk-averse and will make a purchase without touching and feeling the product and are more prone to trying something new. Zappos.com has done an excellent job in capturing this customer and makes it even more customer-centric in offering free shipping and returns.
Yet despite all the different forms of communication available today for a retailer to connect with its customer, one thing has never changed: the need for information. It’s simple and it’s a fact–an educated customer leads to higher conversion rates. Perhaps even more than the consumer of yesterday, the shopper of today wants all the information at hand, because technology has allowed for everything else in their lives to come so easily.
The current day consumer of online fashion relies heavily on reliable copy that evokes an image and emotion in their minds, even if the product listing comes with a picture. Product specs need to be available and understandable. Perhaps most importantly, the fashion consumer seeks the opinion of others. Ratings and feedback from previous customers of the product are highly valued on sites such as Amazon.com and Target.com.
If you can’t see it, touch it, and the computer can’t tell you what it thinks, by all means, let the community do it for you. Such a heavy reliance on this feedback displays how much the consumer of today holds this type of information in such high regard, and finds credibility with people they’ve never met in a virtual community. The emergence of sites like Yelp.com help continue to grow this trust factor in reviews.
Unfortunately, despite all the technological bells and whistles available in this day and age, providing the information can often be a challenge. Fashion consumers are bombarded everyday, both voluntarily and involuntarily, with information from all over the place. Blogs, RSS feeds, Facebook, promotional emails continually feed the mind. The challenge is getting through to them with all the clutter. And what better way to do that than offering them a strong value proposition at the end of the tunnel?
The avid online shopper isn’t scared to purchase on the internet, but they do want to know, what’s in it for them? Instead of driving down the street to get it and satisfy that need for immediate gratification, what will entice them to wait a few days to get the goods? Is it a cheaper price? An exclusive online-only item? A free gift with purchase?
Ultimately the consumer decides, and the retailer must continue inventing ways to stimulate the new generation of customers without alienating its current ones.
Consumers want to connect with their brands- They want to feel good wearing them, and are more conscious of the production process, the designer, and the story and influence behind each item. This is why independent fashion is becoming so hugely popular among consumers.
Keep reading SF Indie Fashion for more interviews with Bay Area fashion folks….