Fashwire, the creator of an app to connect fashion designers directly to consumers, recently raised $725,000 in seed money, and is now working on its Series A financing round in advance of a scheduled summer launch for its app.
Fashwire told GeekWire it already has recruited about 6,000 users and 1,400 designers for a beta test it will run prior to its planned wider rollout in August. The Seattle startup's seed funding came from angel investors in Seattle, New York and Los Angeles.
The app allows consumers to get an early glimpse at designs in progress from independent fashion designers, who post pictures of their new designs on the app. The app allows users to vote on which designs they like and don’t like, and the designers gets real-time access to the voting results, which they can use to inform design changes or other plans for their designs.
There are a lot of fashion apps out there already, with new ones appearing all the time. The intense level of competition in the fashion apparel market has proven too much for retailers like The Limited, which shut down all of its brick-and-mortar stores earlier this year.
Fashwire is entering this environment with a fresh, new angle. The company wants to create a direct link between fashion designers and consumers that ultimately could build a stronger, more intimate relationship between these parties.
But should retailers be worried that apps like these will bypass them in the fashion supply chain? Fashwire may just be one app, but the trend is becoming increasingly apparent: While stores struggle to connect with consumers, fashion influencers and designers have started looking to cut out the middleman and connect with consumers directly.
“In 2016, top tier influencers cut out the middleman of retailers and brands and began selling direct to the consumer through their own online and brick and mortar pop up shops,” Lois Sakany, editor at Snobette.com, a women’s street-style fashion blog, told Retail Dive late last year. “... Retail in 2016 became a space with fewer stores, yes, but more online sellers, all vying for an extremely distracted consumer who has become very niche in mindset.”
“Brands continued to drive increased direct-to-consumer strategies across the entire omnichannel ecosystem, including brick-and-mortar stores,” he said. “In an effort to both break away from the sea of sameness found in so many department stores, and to better control their own brand identity, brands intensified their own direct-to-consumer efforts across all channels.”
The Fashwire app could very well build a bridge directly from designers to consumers that doesn't currently exist — or exists perhaps only in a loose, unorganized way on social media. Designers can get immediate feedback on designs they've just finished or are still in progress, and could make changes or move ahead with what they submitted based on feedback they get through the app. That kind of early street-level guidance is not necessarily for every company in every industry, but in a business where staying on-trend or just ahead of trends is vitally important, it could help deliver that instantaneous feedback to designers.
In building and strengthening the bond between designers and consumers, the app also could create energy around the designs and grease the wheels in the marketplace. Retailers and independent merchants offering the finished products of Fashwire designers could put those fashions on the rack with the knowledge that people already have been talking about them.
Consumers, meanwhile, may be able to use the app to get a heads up on boutiques where new fashions may show up first. Ultimately, they can attain a bit of insider status in the fashion industry. That will go a long way toward keeping them talking about — and buying — new designs they see on apps like Fashwire.