When you get an email with the subject line, “Someone thinks you’re a good tuck,” you tend to investigate. Or at least I do. But there are more reasons than clever wordplay to check out New York-based fashion startup Bib + Tuck, an invite-only community that functions like an online clothing swap – albeit one dressed up and pulled together in a way that pretty much always fails to happen at I.R.L. equivalents.
Along with the opp to divest yourself of items you no longer need (Bib) and scoop up new ones (Tuck) without any actual dollars (except those used for shipping) changing hands.
“I think fashion is really about expression. When you put money in the equation, then it becomes a transaction,” explains Co-Founder Sari Azout, a former trader who founded the site earlier this year with longtime friend and NYU alum Sari Bibliowicz. (Yes, they have the same first name, and yes, it’s kinda cute).
There’s also the lure of a carefully curated community – at least for now. Membership has, thus far, been invite-only or limited to those who already have three or more Facebook friends using the platform. My entree to the site came from Azout (a fellow Brownie), and most others have been brought in through friends and friends of friends: the duo sent out emails to about 100 friends in July inviting them to try the site. By fall, they were up to about 2,000 members and had a wait list numbering more than 5,000, Azout told me when we spoke recently. They’re building slowly and trying to maintain exclusivity, something others in the past have started out doing, but soon abandoned in favor of bigger user numbers (Gilt, for example, comes to mind).
For now, though, the handpicked feeling of those actively using the site feels like something special. Scroll through the names (and members are asked to use their real names and pictures), and you’ll find Yigal Azrouel and Sasha Spielberg (daughter of…) among the ranks, as well as fashion bloggers such as Alicia Lund of Cheetah is the New Black and fashion tech insider-y types such as Cyndi Ramirez of Third Wave Fashion and the team from ILWYW.com. You will also, in most cases, find clothes and accessories available from each.
“We keep telling ourselves that we shouldn’t let go of our mission of building something exclusive. I think that exclusivity online hasn’t really been done before,” Azout says.
But perhaps the most intriguing part of the site, to me at least, since I’m mostly interested in the creative business side of things, is the trade model: because members bib and tuck (i.e. give away and acquire) items based on community currency and not real dollars, there’s an incentive for members to participate in a more holistic way than on other secondhand marketplaces, where there are generally a few power sellers and lots of individual lurkers who don’t post anything to sell but hang out in search of deals. If you want to have enough Bib + Tuck bucks to actually tuck anything cool, you’re going to have to add something to the site and hope that someone else wants it. If they do, you receive virtual bucks that can then be used to tuck items you want. It’s a strategy that may even work on me: I generally have less than zero time to upload and sell items online (I’ve tried, and it’s always a hassle), but in this case, I’d like to have a few more bucks lying around to use virtually when the mood strikes, especially now that I’ve depleted the 25 bonus bucks the site credited me when I joined by tucking a delightfully tacky pink, sparkly, metal spike necklace that reminded me of something much more expensive that I saw recently at a trunk show.
So what’s their money-making plan? They markup shipping costs a bit and also sell virtual bucks to help members just shy of being able to successfully tuck a new item get across that threshold.
Putting this on my one to watch list….
More fashion startups….