01 Dec 2014
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Customizing Couture Online

Áslaug Magnúsdóttir (MBA 2000) Cofounder and CEO, Tinker Tailor
Re: Alexis Maybank (MBA 2004); Alexandra Wilkis Wilson (MBA 2004)
by April White

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The way Áslaug Magnúsdóttir sees it, her new website, Tinker Tailor, which uses interactive web technology to customize high-end designer clothing, is an old-school approach to fashion. “Couture always was a collaboration between the designer and the customer,” says the woman Vogue has called “fashion’s fairy godmother.”

It’s easy to remember a time when women didn’t buy high-end fashion online—it was barely a decade ago. Magnúsdóttir watched the birth of the online fashion industry as a retail consultant and a cofounder of a fashion investment firm before joining the groundbreaking flash-sale site Gilt Groupe. Today, luxury shoppers, once uncertain about the Internet, see it as a way of “accessing special things,” Magnúsdóttir says.

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Sparking the Flash Sale

Gilt Groupe founders Alexis Maybank and Alexandra Wilkis Wilson (both MBA 2004) introduced the world to the now ubiquitous invitation-only Internet flash sale. Up next for Wilkis Wilson: at-home beauty service startup Glamsquad.

That’s what Tinker Tailor offers. “I heard from all these women who really wanted to buy beautiful high-end clothing—and they had the budget to do so—but the options to find the pieces that really worked for a particular individual were limited,” says Magnúsdóttir, who also cofounded Moda Operandi, a “pretail” site giving customers first access to items straight from the runway. On the Tinker Tailor website, which launched this year, women—many of them from the Middle East—can drop the hemline on a Barbara Tfank pencil skirt, for example, add sleeves to a Martin Grant swing dress, or design their own Tinker Tailor–branded wares.

The customers have embraced choice: “In a lot of the investor meetings we were warned, ‘Don’t give the customer too many options.’ But the feedback we’ve been getting is that they want more options.” And so have designers: More than 80 have joined the site. “Most of them feel [customization] is the future,” says Magnúsdóttir. “This is luxury. It’s being able to have the item the way you want it.”

Next: Jamal Motlagh (MBA 2011) — Taking Tailoring High Tech »

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