I recently had the great opportunity to meet Alexis Maybank, Co-Founder of Gilt Groupe. Though we didn’t have long to chat one on one, she did give a nice presentation to attendees of her recent book signing in San Francisco.
Her book, “By Invitation Only: How We Built Gilt and Changed the Way Millions Shop“, co-authored by Gilt Groupe Co-Founder Alexandra Wilkis Wilson, is about how these two women launched a fashion startup in 2007 that grew to be valued at $1B by the Spring of 2011. With the unique combination of their experience in the luxury retail and e-commerce startup worlds, and each with an MBA from HBS and penchant for high-end fashion sample sales Alexandra and Alexis were truly the perfect team to pull this off.
Before they created Gilt, Alexandra and Alexis were used to dashing all over New York City during breaks from work to strategically snatch the best pieces from local sample sales. Alexandra and Alexis essentially brought this concept online.
The book gives an exciting glimpse into just how Alexandra and Alexis handled the early years of Gilt, from brainstorming, to raising capital, to creating buzz, and to traveling an insane amount (all while in amazing heels I’m sure).
Prior to Gilt, luxury fashion brands weren’t typically looking at the Internet, and more specifically e-commerce, as a place that was refined enough through which to sell their pieces. If it wasn’t for Alexandra and Alexis’ relationship with Zac Posen (at the time, an up-and-coming designer) and his mother, Susan, the Gilt story would be drastically different. Because the Posens took a chance with Alexandra and Alexis, the women were able to leverage the Posen brand to bring others on board.
Besides Alexandra and Alexis’ relationship with the Posens, the timing was right in other ways as well. In 2007, Project Runway started exposing mainstream audiences to high fashion designer personalities and runway looks and around this time US luxury brands began creating “capsule” collections (think Marc by Marc Jacobs) aimed at making luxury more accessible to the everywomen or man.
Different sections of the book focus on different parts of Gilt’s growth and each offers sound business advice. In addition, funny anecdotes are woven through the story, which keep you remembering these insanely brilliant businesswomen are in fact actually human.
However, out of all the sections of the book, my absolute favorite is the one about raising capital because of personal ties to some of the names mentioned. Not only is Maxtrix Partners, the VC firm where I worked after college, discussed, but Nick Beim, one of the general partners, is quoted quite a bit. Notably, he was the original Series A investor in Gilt Groupe. Reading about him and the Matrix office was pretty surreal and made me feel like I’d gone back in time for a few pages. In fact, working at Matrix and being surrounded by entrepreneurs like Sheila Marcelo, Founder and CEO of Care.com (also mentioned in the book) gave me just the push I needed to return to school. I don’t doubt that much of my current drive is from this time in my life.
Overall, I’d say the book “By Invitation Only: How we Built the Gilt Groupe and Changed the Way Millions Shop” is well worth the read. It’s fast paced yet detailed enough so you feel like you get insider info. It’s interesting and truly inspiring at the same time. Even if you don’t have a personal tie to anyone mentioned, once finished, you may just feel inspired to try and conquer the world.
I’m honored to have this post included in this week’s Independent Fashion Bloggers weekly roundup:
Edited by: Victoria of vmac+cheese
LINKS À LA MODE: THE IFB WEEKLY ROUND UP: JULY 5TH
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