Social Commerce Today is starting a new series titled “Rules for the Revolution,” which consists of interviews with entrepreneurs that we refer to as social commerce “revolutionaries.” Without question, there is a revolution taking place at the intersection of social media and e-commerce and these individuals are leading the charge. Today’s inaugural installment is with Brooke Moreland, founder of Fashism.com.
“Don’t be afraid to fail. Fear gets in the way of innovation.” – Brooke Moreland
What comes to mind when you hear the term “fascism?” For Fashism.com founder Brooke Moreland, the term inspired a radical idea, that of bringing together a community of young fashion-conscious consumers who gather around the ideal that “we” is better than “me,” at least when it comes to making decisions about what to wear.
Sitting around a kitchen table one evening in 2008, Moreland and a few friends toyed with the idea of creating a site that addressed that need. Someone suggested the name Fashism – an amalgam of fascism and fashion – and it stuck.
Out of that informal meeting the die was struck for a website and mobile app that would allow members, using a smartphone, to take a picture of an outfit they were interested in purchasing, upload it to the site and get instant feedback from members of the community.
Moreland’s revolutionary idea was born of her our own shopping experience where she wanted to use mobile technology to garner the opinions of others about an outfit she was trying on, but couldn’t because no such app existed at the time. So, she decided to build one.
In explaining her concept, Moreland said, “We built an online community incorporating both mobile and web-based technology where people post photos of themselves and ask the community whether they should buy or wear an outfit, then allow the community to discuss its merits.”
Moreland’s vision for Fashism is two-fold: To give people confidence in their decisions regarding the way they look, and to be used as a discovery tool where community members can learn about new brands and fashions.
As might be expected, the user-base for Fashism consists primarily of teen-aged girls (25%) and young adult females, ages 18 -24 (40%). “Younger people are more comfortable sharing personal information online. They are unafraid of sharing images of themselves, or putting their real selves out there,” said Moreland.
When asked about the business model around Fashism, Moreland said, “We focused on utility first, with a view toward providing benefit to our users, believing that the money would come later. We didn’t perceive it to be a problem as our members come to the site with a purchase intent.”
Fashism does make money, however, via three channels: Affiliate sales, advertising and sponsored promotions with fashion brands. As one example, Moreland cited a prom season promotion with Lord & Taylor. “Signs were posted in prom shop dressing rooms encouraging girls to post their photos to Fashism and claim their prom dress. Doing so gave them exclusive rights to the dress on our website,” she stated. “If someone liked the dress, it would be pushed to the Lord & Taylor site where buyers could see dresses with similar attributes.”
So successful has Fashim’s community-driven concept been that the company is considering moving into other verticals, as well as incorporating an e-commerce layer itself. “We have a highly engaged audience consisting of users who want to buy stuff,” Moreland said.
When asked about mistakes made by the company during its evolution, Moreland said, “One early mistake we made was to do a big redesign where we changed a lot of things all at once. That caused confusion among members of our community.” Having learned her lesson, she added, “We try to make as few changes as possible, and those only incrementally. If our users don’t like it, we revert back to the previous version.”
Rule for the Revolution
Moreland’s ‘rule for the revolution’ to other budding social commerce entrepreneurs: “Don’t be afraid to fail. Fear gets in the way of innovation. Put yourself out there and be willing to take risks. Social commerce, especially where fashion brands are concerned, is still unchartered territory.”