This Online Retailer Is Reimagining the Fashion Industry by Fostering Community

Betabrand lets shoppers guide the brand to unexpected places

The internet has rewired the consumer mind, but what does that mean for the fashion world?
Photo Illustration: Yuliya Kim; Sources: Getty Images

I’m the founder of the online clothing company Betabrand. Adweek has asked me to chuck humility out the window and explain how we aim to disrupt, nay, carpet-bomb the fashion industry.

The internet has rewired the consumer mind, turning us into a global herd of info-zombies, gobbling hunks of content like so many juicy, glistening organs.

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The media has grasped this, of course, with publications transitioning from monthly, weekly and daily news cycles to an ever-flowing gusher of content.

But what does it mean for a fashion world still grappling with an epochal shift from the mall to the internet? Do things like style seasons and fashion weeks even make sense to consumers who demand new ideas, nonstop?

Here’s a look at some of the ways Betabrand is trying to refashion the fashion industry:

Digital design is faster-than-fast fashion

Our 3-D renderings are beautiful, incredibly accurate and can spare the industry a wasteful, time-consuming sampling process. These digitally rendered products practically invite consumers to purchase them right off designers’ desktops!

We’ve worked with Li & Fung to bring new ideas to life in a matter of weeks, a design process informed by Betabrand customers providing constant feedback.

Here’s an example:

Courtesy of Betabrand

Tens of thousands of sales later, I can assure you we’re onto something. Get ready for more.

Invest in ideas, not inventory

To Betabrand, every design sketch is content. As a result, we can update our catalog like a Twitter account and watch as consumers flock toward the most interesting concepts.

We then develop the most popular ideas, the ones that best connect with fans. In other words, we only make products that consumers want.

Have a look at what’s trending on Betabrand.

Let consumers guide you to really unexpected places

No amount of market research could have told us that Betabrand would transform from a men’s business to a women’s business practically overnight. When we posted a sketch of “Dress Pant Yoga Pants” to our site, every conceivable web stat immediately screamed, “Make these!”

Courtesy of Betabrand

This fashion-forwardable concept drew millions of women to our site, and we’ve since co-created hundreds of follow-on products with them.

Fashion’s first responders

Buy new clothing today, and there’s a good chance it was birthed from a design department more than a year ago. “New” isn’t really new. In fact, it’s often a calculated, rather conservative decision made by merchants relying on historical data.

That’s out of synch with the world of social media, where things change by the minute and fads explode out of nowhere.

Speaking of which, we put our name on the map by designing a hoodie that inserted Betabrand into the Facebook IPO news cycle. It came to life in a matter of days and earned global news coverage. Adweek even wrote about it.

Run your brand like a social network, not a catalog

Ecommerce isn’t enough. If you only offer consumers a buy button, they’ll only visit your site when they’re in a shopping mood.

At Betabrand, designers post concepts, and consumers follow those designers. And vice versa. This ensures that people are always up to something our site. And there’s a ton of value in nonpurchase clicks.

Our site is a community not unlike Pinterest or Instagram. See for yourself.

Welcome consumers into your creative department

No matter what industry you work in, you’re aware of all the awesome ideas that never make it off the whiteboard or out of your notebook. The ads that don’t go public are often funnier and more daring. Similarly, when I visit design departments of major fashion brands, I see that they’re filled with amazing concepts that consumers never get to see.

By connecting customers directly with the brainpower of creative departments, bolder products and promotions come to life faster. This happens every day at Betabrand, and it could surely happen at your company, too.

Brands like Timberland, The North Face, Vivobarefoot and even Cheetos have tested concepts on our platform, and the process has led them to insights they never expected.