How Polyvore Became a Trend-Setter in Social ShoppingThis online community tells your network what to wear. Plus, a look at more ground-breakers in social commerce.
May 24, 2011
by Jennifer Wang
The future of shopping is social (as in network). For that, you can thank companies like Polyvore, an online community whose members curate product images from all over the web to make digital fashion collages, called “sets,” that can be shared on social networks like Facebook and Twitter. To encourage actual shopping, the sets link back to the original sites and include pricing when available.
Co-founders Pasha Sadri (CEO) and Jess Lee (VP of product) got their data mashup cred at Yahoo Pipes and Google Maps, respectively, and have created what is essentially a crowdsourced fashion magazine that reflects real-time trends. For instance, when news of Alexander McQueen’s death hit, there was a surge of sets paying homage to the designer. Beyond that, Polyvore keeps a drool-worthy repository of data for brands that can now track which products are most engaging and how items are being styled by top influencers around the world.
The idea for Polyvore first came to Sadri in early 2007, after he’d built a virtual mood board tool to help with a house redesign project. By April, he and the founding team launched a fashion-focused platform; in December, they’d landed a $2.5 million deal with Benchmark Capital.
The Mountain View, Calif.-based company is profitable, and visitors—everyone from design-school hopefuls to seniors—have doubled in each of the last two years, to 6.5 million.
According to Sadri, what differentiates Polyvore is the depth of community engagement, with 2 million active users spending hours online browsing, following favorite taste streams, asking questions—and importing 50,000 items to create about 35,000 sets, daily. The community challenges are another draw, and aim to give members real power in the fashion industry through partnerships with brands like American Eagle (the best AE sets were featured on a Times Square billboard) and designers like Rebecca Minkoff (the winning redesign of the “Morning After” clutch debuted on the runway and will be sold at Saks in the fall).
Like Polyvore’s top sets—say, a silk blouse-and-skinny jeans combo with vintage gold Chanel jewelry and even accessorized with a McCafé mocha—the future looks pretty good.
“There is a new model for shopping and product discovery,” Lee says, “and we’re here, at the intersection of content, community and commerce.”
And, Sadri adds, hinting that men’s fashion and interior design verticals could be next, “We’re just getting started. Right now we have one sales person, and a lot of work to do.”