As the Spring 2013 shows wrapped up in Paris today, the fashion obsessed are already placing orders straight off the runways. Once limited to industry elites and top clients, pre-buying looks from the next season has now become much more accessible thanks to fashion startup Moda Operandi. Members of the website view designer looks from the shows and put down a 50% deposit to guarantee production and delivery of the items they want. In a sea of digital fashion commerce focused on discounted retailing, Moda Operandi has done exactly the opposite. The site sells full priced items with an average order value of $1400— but if its most recent $36 million funding from investors including LVMH and IMG is any indication, going against the grain here is not a bad thing.
Another newly launched pretailer Bonfaire seems to think so too. Its business model highly mimics that of Moda— showcasing next season’s products in limited edition online trunk shows with users putting down a 50% deposit to guarantee their purchase. The San Francisco based start-up opened its digital doors during this New York Fashion Week and already has brands such as Giambattista Valli (which just showed its spring wares two days ago) and Etro on its sale lineup. But as a point of differentiation from Moda, Bonfaire is focused on selling shoes and accessories, which co-founder Shari Rudolph believes speak to a wider audience. To add to its appeal, the site expands beyond premiere luxury designers to carry inventory with lower price points and labels not easily accessible in the US.
Bonfaire also offers free shipping, free returns, and full refunds on items purchased through its site. Moda, on the other hand, formerly had a store-credit only return policy but quietly amended it around the time Bonfaire launched. According to Moda’s customer service page: “For orders placed on September 6, 2012 or after: We accept returns on many items, excluding final sale items, which will be indicated on each product page. Returns are eligible for store credit or refund to your original method of payment. For orders placed prior to September 6, 2012: We accept returns on apparel and footwear products only, for store credit only.”
Moda’s change in its return policy may have been done subtly, but it’s implications ring quite loudly. Most clear is that Moda is gearing up for competitors in the pretailing space. It also indicates that this form of e-commerce may soon be targeting a wider audience than the high fashion shoppers who find purchasing a $5,000 piece of clothing online with no refund option palatable. With Bonfaire now casting a wider net with the same business model, it remains to be seen how more shoppers adapt to this new type of online commerce.