Gilt Groupe Founder Is All About Guilty PleasuresOctober 20, 2011
by Maria Tettamanti
Confession: We’re positively guilty of anticipating the stroke of noon for Gilt.com’s newest discounted sales on luxury goods. So when Gilt Groupe’s Founder and Chief Merchandising Officer Alexandra Wilkis Wilson made a jaunt to Miami for a Gilt Noir soiree (a private party for best customers), we just had to meet the 34-year-old entrepreneur. Born and raised in New York, Wilson actually holds South Florida ties. The Harvard alum has worked in the rough-and-tumble worlds of finance and fashion —with Louis Vuitton and Bulgari — and is now touted for revolutionizing the landscape of luxury e-commerce with gilt.com, which celebrates its four-year anniversary in November.
You have Miami roots, how so?
Well, first off, my mother is Cuban. Need I say more? Throughout my childhood, I spent my summers in Key Biscayne, one of my favorite places in the world. I love Miami. My husband proposed to me here and a year later we got married at The Biltmore Hotel and had our rehearsal dinner at Villa Woodbine.
How did Gilt.com come to fruition? Why the name?
I’ve always loved sample sales. I wanted to recreate their excitement — only online. My co-founder Alexis Maybank and I came up with the name Gilt Groupe. Gilt has a double meaning — guilt as well as gilt, which means gold covered. We thought of the gilded age, luxurious and opulent. As for Groupe, the idea of “Group” made us sound more established than our initial five-person team and we added the “e” for a certain je ne sais quoi.
What’s a typical day like for you?
No two days have ever been alike for me. I spend the majority of my time meeting with our brand partners and with our members. My job is mostly outward facing so I am almost never sitting at my desk for more than 15 minutes. I’m usually on the run, meeting people and that makes me happy.
From Land Rovers to bridal gowns, to date, what designer has been the site’s bestseller?
Our Christian Louboutin sale was pretty spectacular. Everyone in the office still talks about it and members want to know when we’ll have another. Last year we sold three Volkswagen Jettas for $5,995 each ($15,995 originally at the dealership) in minutes.
What are the best trends or designers coming out of Miami?
There are so many great Miami-based designers and brands: Citrine by the Stones, Eberjey, James Stuart Duncan, Elephantito, Red Carter, Pianegonda, Cosabella and TechnoMarine. Also, The Webster is a store not to be missed.
What’s next for you?
A book entitled By Invitation Only, which comes out in April. It’s a business book that we hope will inspire entrepreneurs.