Moda Operandi Founder, HBS Alum Talks Fashion Curation, Data, and Fit

Moda Operandi, the New York-based startup that allows shoppers to pre-order pieces from luxury runway collections, announced a $36 million Series C round late last week.

That’s from a company that had only launched its shopping service a little over a year ago. The round was led by new investor RRE Ventures, and included return backers New Enterprise Associates, New Atlantic Ventures, and Conde Nast. (Moda Operandi powers pre-ordering for the publisher’s Vogue website.) The fashion and events company IMG and LVMH, the luxury company whose brands include Louis Vutton and Marc Jacobs, also participated in the deal.

Moda Operandi was founded by Vogue contributing editor Lauren Santo Domingo and Harvard Business School grad Aslaug Magnusdottir, a former fashion consultant who had a stint at Gilt Groupe. The company got started by offering limited-time online trunk shows that gave shoppers access to runway apparel that may never make it into stores. Shoppers pay a 50 percent deposit upon ordering and the balance when they receive their apparel weeks later. The new funding will be used to expand Moda Operandi’s model to also feature in-season merchandise available immediately, and to expand its presence globally, in markets like the U.K., the Middle East, Brazil, and China, Magnusdottir explained in a conversation this week.

In 2000 Magnusdottir graduated from Harvard Business School, which puts her in a group of entrepreneurs that have been doing a lot to disrupt the fashion industry over the last few years. She had plenty to say about how Moda Operandi stands up to traditional luxury retail stores, how data impacts designers, and what untapped fashion problems can be solved by startups. Read on for an edited transcript of our conversation.

Xconomy: Your new funding will be used in part to expand your business from pre-ordering to also offer in-season shopping. Was this always an area you had in mind? Why is now a good time for that expansion?
Aslaug Magnusdottir: It’s definitely something that we always had in the back of our mind. We are building strong working relationships with a lot of the best brands around the world and a customer base around the world. It made a lot of sense to add this feature.

Our trunk show feature is really unique. We are the only one specializing in that, and it will continue to be core to our business. But our customer is a customer that also shops in season. There are very few people that only order upfront.

We’re [expanding to in-season shopping] to better serve that customer and attract other customers who are hesitant to try that pre-order model.

That will be done differently than the trunk show. There will be a much narrower selection, really based on what the best sellers are from the trunk show. We get data early on of what customers are reacting to. We are also adding select commercial pieces that we haven’t featured during the trunk shows.

X: So are you competing with traditional luxury retailers now?
AM: Certainly that comes closer to becoming directly competitive to them than what we have been doing. What differentiates it is that offering will be highly curated and will be very much driven by the data upfront.

We have amazing fashion eyes in our company, but the beauty of the trunk show is we have this data and we really know what customers are reacting to.

We will be the place to go to for a very highly curated selection. We’re only working with a … Next Page »

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