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Why FashionStake Is the Next E-Commerce Boutique to Watch

Wicce, Yoonmi Lee, Family Affair, Louver. Don't worry if you've never heard of these emerging designers or of FashionStake, the site that curates their work for sale. You soon will. FashionStake's got all the makings of a next-big-thing: an indie cool, Etsy-esque e-commerce platform, littered with reasonably priced, eclectic finds. No wonder the likes of Gilt Groupe's co-founder Alexis Maybank are clamoring to invest with cash in hand.
Another HBS production
Harvard Business School is turning out to be quite the hive for stylish entrepreneurs. Like Rent the Runway, FashionStake was founded by Vivian Weng and Daniel Gulati while they were still students in September of 2009.
Originally the concept allowed fashionistas to buy a "stake" in a designer's collection in exchange for such coveted perks as pre-order discounts, dinner with the designer and Fashion Week tickets. That soon morphed into a dedicated sales effort when FashionStake dropped the funding arm and fully developed the pre-order concept.

Discounting was still viable as shoppers' sign-ups provided a no-fail approach to anticipate demand for each item before it was produced.

The way it works
Now as the site's become a full-fledged e-commerce boutique, Weng and Gulati tout the democratic way designers are selected and vetted as their secret sauce.

We scour the world for the most talented, amazing, awe-inspiring independent designers and bring them to you every day in the Voting Booth. Just getting to this stage is tough- designers must pass rigorous screening tests involving multiple criteria.

Then we turn to you. Your job is to vote for the pieces you think will end up becoming the most popular in our store. The pieces with the most votes actually make it into our store as 'Crowd-Favorites' and you get rewards if you vote correctly.

The store is a constantly growing collection of the best independent designers. We know they're the best not because we think so, but because thousands of fashion fans told us so. And that's why we're a fashion democracy!

Why it's the next wave
Gulati and Weng can call it whatever they want, with such a no-nonsense approach for unknowns to peddle their threads, they're avoiding the haughty trap of curation that some sites have fallen prey to.

Any die-hard fashionista will tell you: lust for established labels often coexists with the thrill of a new discovery (think before their trendsetting friends). On FashionStake, trendsetters can scour and score one-of-a-kind threads to their hearts content. Ka-ching.

The social aspect of shopping is evolving rapidly in e-commerce. And right now, crowdsourcing is a winning inventory strategy which the likes of Modcloth (Be the Buyer) and eBay (Derek Lam's Fashion Week collection) have already tapped with success.

The pricing -- between $20 -$500 -- means that it won't cost an arm and a leg to try a new style. $5 flat rate shipping, though not free, certainly isn't a deal breaker. Finally, FashionStake's no-questions-asked, 14-day return policy is quite reasonable.

As the fashion e-commerce field gets littered with start-ups like so many last season clothes, FashionStake's straightforward approach may already deem it a classic.

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