FMG Interviews Polyvore CEO Pasha Sadri: Social Shopping and The Democratization of Fashion

POLYVORE’S CEO PASHA SADRI ON SOCIAL SHOPPING AND THE DEMOCRATIZATION OF FASHION**

by Kristin Young for FMG @kristayloryoung

 

There has never been a more unlikely group of revolutionaries in fashion: a handful of young engineers dressed in typical Silicon Valley unfashionable jeans and T-shirts, gathered around a pod of computers looking not at designer lines but at numbers spit out by analytics software.

 

We are at the modest headquarters of Polyvore.com, a shopping site launched in 2007 by three ex-Yahoo engineers, Pasha Sadri, Jianing Hu and Guangwei Yuan. The site allows users to clip in fashion products from their favorite stores on the Web to create “sets,” basically collages that resemble trend pages in a fashion magazine. Users can create collections, enter contests, get style advice, join groups, look at each other’s sets and, of course, click to buy merchandise.

 

 

 

 

They can also share their sets on blogs, Twitter and Facebook. With 6.5 million unique visitors per month — about six times the number of people who read Vogue — the site is attracting big-name retail partners like Bergdorf Goodman and Nordstrom and designers like Yves Saint Laurent, Tory Burch and Diane von Furstenberg.

 

Earlier this month Polyvore* announced a collaboration with Fashion’s Night Out 2011 - perfect timing for FMG’s Kristin Young (formerly of WWD) to sit down with Sadri to discuss the impact sites like his are having on the fashion industry.

 

"nobody had paid a lot of tech attention to fashion."

 

FMG: What made a bunch of tech guys get into the fashion biz?

PS: The founding story is a little bit unglamorous. We identified that the migration from print publications to digital was well on its way. And then there was this observation that nobody had paid a lot of tech attention to fashion. We were surprised apparel and soft goods is the largest category online and the fastest growing. It was not a very crowded market compared to a lot of other fields where you have a hundred companies trying to do the same thing and only one of them is dominant.

 

FMG: Where do Polyvore’s products come from?

PS: Most of the products are contributed by the users. We have a bookmark drag bar that allows you to clip from any other store or site. About 95 percent of content is actually arriving through this mechanism.

 

 

 

FMG: How do fashion brands utilize Polyvore?

PS: There’s a tremendous amount of data in Polyvore. We have a new tool—dashboard—that let’s [companies] take the temperature and see how their brand is doing and they can respond real time. Designers can actually get feedback much earlier on collections or specific pieces - and it can become part of the design process.

 

FMG: Are traditional bricks-and-mortar stores soon to be as relevant in fashion as Tower Records is in music?

PS: For clothing, you’re still talking about physical products. You can’t download clothing. So you’re going to watch a slower transition.  But, overall the shift is going to be online.

 

FMG: Rebecca Minkoff recently held a design-off challenge for a clutch on Polyvore. Are you going to see more of this kind of interaction?

PS: Sites like Polyvore, Youtube, et al., are really about enabling people who have that talent but didn’t have the opportunity to participate. So you would normally not see them because these platforms didn’t exist for them. Thanks to the Internet and existence of these platforms, you have the opportunity to showcase your talent.

 

 

 

"Our belief is there is actually no substitute for human taste. “

 

 

FMG: How does Polyvore make money?

 PS: Today there are actually two revenue streams, commission and advertising. We make a commission whenever somebody transacts a product.

 

FMG: How can companies use Polyvore with other social media sites?

PS: Many brands are paying attention to social media, for example, Facebook. Once they create a presence on Facebook, they need to constantly have interesting stream of things to say in order to maintain their fan base. Polyvore actually works perfectly for that. Our community produces a lot of activity and content around each brand. Companies can get more engagement out of their fan base on these social media platforms.

 

FMG: Why do you think Polyvore caught on?

PS: For a lot of sites, immediate revenue is the focus for a lot of shopping oriented sites. Whereas on Polyvore, you want to come and browse and interact. That suits the way a lot of women shop.

 

FMG: Google’s boutiques.com uses algorithms to generate suggestions for its users. Do you agree with this business model?

PS:  Our belief is there is actually no substitute for human taste. You cannot capture it in an algorithm. Following that person who’s taste you like is the best way to discover products that you are likely to like as well. An algorithm might capture the average of your taste, but it leaves out the element of surprise that a real person gives you.

 

-Kristin Young for FMG   (**photo courtesy of Polyvore)

*Partner with Polyvore as a brand or blogger