Vestium — Building A New Fashion Community
On the landing page of Vestium it boldly states: “We’re reinventing online fashion retail.”
What eventually came out of the chat was some good insights into the process of building a new fashion community for discovering and buying clothes. Something where Cardiff University has played a central role.
This is the story behind the London-based startup.
fshion: Can you tell us what is Vestium?
Harry: The idea of Vestium came to me one day while I was browsing Instagram. I saw this one coat that I really really liked, but I just couldn’t find out where it was from, so I thought: We need an app where we can follow all the cool fashion bloggers in one place and find out where exactly you can buy all the clothes they are wearing.
Vestium is going to be that app. It will be a new platform where fashion bloggers, celebrities and basically anyone interested in fashion can upload photos of their outfits, type where the outfit is from and then allow the users to click straight to the online store to buy the clothes.
fshion: Can you run us through how the app will work for the end users?
Harry: When you first download the app you will get a sign-in or register page, like with any other app. So you submit your details and get directed to the homepage, which is a feed of content from people you are following.
There are some quite nice features we have managed to get into the feed, but this we will be kept under wraps until the beta is out.
From the homepage you will also have options to look at trending outfits as well as the blog, magazine and your profile. So it pretty much works like any other social media site.
We want to keep it fairly simple at the moment so we can get Vestium out there to receive early feedback from our users.
fshion: How do you approach building a new fashion platform?
Harry: At the moment we are highly focused on building a community. We have a beta coming out soon. Currently we are directing people to sign up to the beta from our landing page.
Ideally we have two sides on this platform. On the one hand, we have the fashion bloggers themselves, these are the people uploading the shots and sharing their outfits. And then on the other hand, we have their followers, who will be looking at the uploads, commenting, favouriting and checking out where the clothes are from.
So we are really targeting a mixture of the two markets. To reach the fashion bloggers we email them individually with a brief explanation and some mockups, to get their inputs and see if we can get them onboard.
Currently we have two people in our team responsible for the marketing. They have been busy looking through fashion blogs from all over the world to identify the people we like the most, and who are the most influential.
We think it is important to involve the fashion bloggers from an early stage so they become part of the process.
fshion: And how far are you in this process?
Harry: At the moment we have talked to around 60 bloggers. It is a deliberate strategy not to get too many users onboard at first. So we keep the access to our beta limited.
Once the beta testing has started, we plan to provide each of our users with five invitations they can share with their friends. In this way we aim to grow organically through existing communities of fashion bloggers and their follower base.
fshion: Are you planning to build a desktop version?
Harry: We are going to build a very basic desktop version, allowing people to sign up and look through the outfits already on the platform. However, we are most likely not going to allow desktop users to upload outfits. In fact, our desktop strategy is a bit similar to Instagram’s.
fshion: Returning to the user growth. How is it going with attracting end users like you and me?
Harry: Over the past days we have been featured on Betalist which has provided us 200–300 signups.
Otherwise we find it quite difficult pushing people to visiting a website that doesn’t have too much information on it. Therefore we will be publishing more insights about Vestium as we are progressing towards the beta. However, at the moment we try to keep it a bit under wraps.
fshion: When can we expect Vestium to launch?
Harry: We are planning to roll out the beta in a month or so, it is getting close.
fshion: What are the biggest challenges you are facing in making Vestium a reality?
Harry: Right now the biggest problem is marketing something that doesn’t exist. When we are presenting Vestium to people, we are lacking something more concrete to show them than a cool concept.
However, we are really passionate about Vestium and people can feel this when we are talking to them. It helps to make up for the lack of a beta version.
fshion: Do you find it more difficult to attract the fashion bloggers or the end users?
Harry: I think the fashion bloggers are naturally cautious. They have plenty of people approaching them and are not eager to jump onto a new initiative.
Looking at it from their perspective I can see why. They are already established on different platforms and don’t want to risk their positions by joining something new and unestablished. They basically don’t know how it is going to look like and whether it is going to be popular.
So fashion bloggers have been quite difficult to contact. But once we have got in contact with them they have been really friendly and open to what we are doing.
With the end users it is another story. Many of the users signing up through our landing page are curious to see what Vestium is, so we don’t have to sell our concept to them. They are intrinsically interested.
One approach we have discovered to be effective for attracting users is street style shots. So currently we have one of our marketing guys wandering around the streets of London shooting the best street styles.
The advantage of this approach is two-fold: We get good content for the app and we reach potential users.
fshion: How do you plan to make money from Vestium?
Harry: That is something for the future. At the moment we focus solely on building community and getting as many people on the site to share and comment on outfits.
In the future we hope that the users will be able to shop the outfits directly through the app, at which point we will start to think about how to capture value from Vestium. It could be by taking a cut from each sale or through sponsored content.
However, how we will monetize is really something for the future. Because for any social media site to succeed you first need a community.
That said, we already have some contacts with the fashion industry in London. So when time comes, I think we will first contact UK stores by going directly to their marketing teams and see what they are willing to do with us.
Furthermore, eventually brands will be able to sign up for Vestium by agreeing to some terms we have yet to figure out. But again, this is down the road.
fshion: How many are you in the team?
Harry: There are 6 of us at the moment plus two writers. The two writers are creating content for a blog and magazine we are working on, covering the stories about fashion.
The nice thing is that we are all connected to each other somehow. Three of us went to school together and three of us met at Cardiff University. This gives a good atmosphere in the team and last night we all went out to a pub here in London celebrating that it was the first time the whole team was gathered.
fshion: How do you finance working on Vestium?
Harry: We won an award at Cardiff University where we had to pitch our idea. It was a satisfying feeling having someone else to validate the idea that we have spent long time developing.
The money we won from this competition made it possible for us to come to London and use the city as the home over the summer.
But even when the money from the award runs out, we plan to keep going through bootstrapping. Also, we don’t really have any overheads, so money is not really an issue at the moment, but of course it is handy.
I think investment is something we will look into in the future, but at least not until we have had some feedback from the beta. By then Vestium will also be more than an idea.
fshion: Who do you identify as your competitors?
Harry: There are plenty of interesting fashion apps. For example, Lookbook.nu which is very similar. Otherwise I think our main competitors are basically social media sites like Facebook and Instagram where users already are sharing and engaging with each other around fashion.
However, this is not something we are too worried about, because there are many things we do differently with Vestium: we collect everything in one place, make it possible to identify the different items of clothing and we will also have our own magazine.
We also believe that the market is big enough for more players, as people don’t just use one app anymore. I personally use Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn… almost every site available.
Craig: Asos does something very similar to what we are aiming for. However, it is only their own offering. We want to work with more brands and thus aiming for a much larger audience.
Furthermore, whereas Asos has to align their initiative with the overall direction of the company, we don’t have to limit ourselves. We are new and can develop in any direction we want to.
fshion: If you should dream big, where are you in 5 years time?
Harry: If we should dream. In 5 years we have a big community, a lot of chatting, sharing and buying through Vestium.
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