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E‑commerce startup Material Wrld opens its virtual doors to a high fashion marketplace

E‑commerce ana­lysts with an eye on the fash­ion space will want to take a good look at a start­up e‑marketplace with a pas­sion for high-end sar­to­r­i­al panache – Mate­r­i­al Wrld, which has just made its pub­lic debut.

The company’s name high­lights its inter­na­tion­al ambi­tions. It’s attract­ed seed fund­ing from War­by Park­er and Bono­bos investor Great Oaks VC, and it’s been on an impres­sive­ly rapid learn­ing curve dur­ing its beta in late 2012.  There’s now a raft of new fea­tures designed to help its chic-lov­ing fash­ion com­mu­ni­ty to find new peo­ple to fol­low, new ideas and, most impor­tant­ly, new styles.

While it retains a promi­nent New York focus, 30 per cent of Mate­r­i­al Wrld’s traf­fic comes from beyond U.S. shores. That’s accord­ing to Rie Yano, who found­ed the mar­ket­place with her Har­vard grad school bud­dy Jie Zheng. Both have plen­ty of expe­ri­ence in the fash­ion indus­try — Yano worked in dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing for Coach, while Zheng has expe­ri­ence with J Crew and Ralph Lauren.

An inter­na­tion­al aim

E‑commerce man­agers who admire a dash of ambi­tious deter­mi­na­tion can only be impressed with the firm’s quest to go after an inter­na­tion­al audi­ence.  As Yano puts it:

“We’re aggres­sive about enter­ing new mar­kets because at the end of the day, a mar­ket­place is only excit­ing when it’s inter­na­tion­al. More than half of eBay sales are done inter­na­tion­al­ly. From the begin­ning, our busi­ness mod­el has been about allow­ing peo­ple to dis­cov­er and pur­chase from any­where in the world.”

Lux­u­ry consigning

The peo­ple it’s aim­ing for are the high­er-end fash­ion con­sumers, who can pho­to­graph and share items they have hang­ing in their clos­ets and then sell them to oth­ers on the Mate­r­i­al Wrld peer-to-peer mar­ket­place.  E‑commerce ana­lysts worth their salt will be aware that oth­er e‑commerce star­tups have tried this approach, notably the kids cloth­ing mar­ket­place ThredUp and oth­ers like Twice, Thread­flip and Posh­mark. But Mate­r­i­al Wrld’s niche is very dif­fer­ent — not fast fash­ion in the $20 — $30-an-item range but big brand qual­i­ty aver­ag­ing around $100 a piece.

The rest of the resale space, says Yano, is focused on “thrift­ing”. Mate­r­i­al Wrld is focused on “lux­u­ry consigning.”

Amongst the site’s half a dozen new fea­tures are real-time noti­fi­ca­tions of site activ­i­ty a la Face­book, along with a per­son­al­ized “live feed” keep­ing track of the groups and clos­ets vis­i­tors are following.

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