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From SoHo to Silicon Alley: Fashion World, Meet TheCools

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Attention fashionistas, designers, digital window shoppers and boutiques: a revolutionary new startup launched a couple of weeks ago for you.

Take the visually sleek and elegant UI from Tumblr and mix it with the quirky e-commerce world of Etsy and you have TheCools. The main concept is curation. By  answering a series of preliminary questions about your tastes in style and adding your “+1 cool” stamp of  approval to various items, the content becomes customized for you. In three different tabs, you can choose to visit your personalized feed, shop for items or sell items directly through the site.

Nestled between “Silicon Alley” and the fashion madness of Soho in NYC, the startup was created by Parisian entrepreneur Olivier Van Themsche in 2011. Since launching privately, the company has raised more than $2.5 million. Funded by  MTV founder Bob Pittman and advised by moguls such as fashion designer Erin Fetherston, Fab.com’s Beth Ferreira, and LVMH’s Director Antoine Arnault, the startup has also garnered quite a bit of industry support.

Even before the public launch on June 27, TheCools had drawn more than 50,000 visitors and 10,000 active members – and the numbers just keep increasing. Curious to know more about the inspiration behind the site, I spoke with Van Themsche.

Olivier van ThemscheTech Cocktail: Could you tell me a little bit about yourself and what your motivation and inspiration was for The Cools?

Olivier Van Themsche: [The concept] came when I realized my friends in Paris and London had all of these designer bags and shoes, and I didn’t know how they could afford it. They were buying in marketplaces like Ebay and Craigslist, which was surprising to me at the time because I didn’t know they had [those items]. [Ebay and Craigslist] are not enjoyable platforms, but they work. I decided to create a website that could be enjoyable for people who want to buy fashion, design or art. I took social tools and added the social dynamics so that people could have these experiences mixing different platforms.

Tech Cocktail: How did your public launch party go?

Van Themsche: We wanted to create an event where our creators could meet the rest of the community….  [Buyers] would walk in a room and informally walk through the pieces for sale. This gives our community roots and helps bridge the rest of the world to interact and mingle with content creators. We’re happy that the first one was a success, even if in the end , the police showed up because lines were blocking the streets. They say there’s no good event or party unless it’s visited by the police!

Tech Cocktail: There are lots of websites that curate content and offer a customized feed. What makes The Cools unique?

Van Themsche:  The Cools is a user generated marketplace from the beginning. A big [difference] is the social aspect with interacting with other users…. We give [users] the opportunity to sell their product online in a social community on a global platform, where [buyers] can have a direct conversation with the seller…. We add the content dimension so you can post photos and videos that are all part of your style. The Cools is more of a magazine, a mix of products and content that you can tailor yourself based on the profiles that you follow.

Tech Cocktail: What advantages do e-commerce sites have over the traditional brick-and-mortar stores?

Van Themsche: The Cools is the story of moving from a traditional way of shopping, where people have to know exactly what they’re looking for, to now finding things you weren’t originally looking for….

Tech Cocktail: What future trends should we be seeing in the world of curated  e-commerce and fashion?

Van Themsche: We’re involved in a big revolution in fashion. We’re trying to give the opportunity to all designers, brands and stores to sell online in a new environment. The Cools works with trendsetters to generate the platform…. The first revolution was eShops, where people could buy products online. The next revolution is that brands will have a new distribution channel they can totally control, because they can sell by themselves in platforms like The Cools where it’s a user-generated marketplace. They can manage their own profiles and sell their products with a much larger audience…. The Cools gives [sellers] more exposure by bringing the social aspect and the opportunity to create [a] following in a global space which makes the process more powerful.

Tech Cocktail: Do you have any advice for those who’d like to break into the entrepreneurial fashion realm?

Van Themsche: It’s a really tough market because it’s being re-scripted every month – and ignored every month. There haven’t been big disruptions in the [fashion] market until now. In a year, we will see super successful platforms arising with business models where there are more opportunities to sell. Also, in the time of a recession, it’s important that startups come up with new solutions and opportunities for retailers and brands to improve margins. Another distribution channel will fight against the recession. And I think that’s interesting.

Guest author Stephanie Nguyen loves digital storytelling, the data way. Follow her on Twitter @nguyenist.

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About the Author

Stephanie is Lead Designer and co-founder of Silica Labs, a startup located in Washington DC. She is designing apps for wearable devices including Google Glass, Sony SmartWatch, Pebble, Basis, and more. She has a background in data visualization and design and her work has been shared to publications such as Forbes and Fortune 500 clients globally. She was featured in AdAge as one of the Most Promising Minority Students and has been distinguished by the 4 A's in Multicultural Advertising. Follow her on Twitter @nguyenist.

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