Imagine you could point your phone at a stylish woman on the subway in order to purchase the shoes she’s wearing. That would be awesome. It would also be creepy.
A new website called Material Wrld transforms style envy into commerce—no subway stalking required. Stylish folks, who for now are handpicked by the site's staff, upload photos of their prized wardrobe items into "closets." Though they can include pieces solely for the sake of showing off, what differentiates the site from typical fashion blogging tools is that they can also sell them.
Shoppers, meanwhile, follow the closets they like for updates about new items.
It’s not quite a pure marketplace like eBay, though WWD did recently call the site "Fashion’s New eBay."
Rather, it’s a smart combination of the two.
"Our huge advantage over eBay is that maybe you don’t know exactly what you want to buy," says Rie Yano, who cofounded the site with Jie Zheng. User-curated content serves as a bridge to a sale.
In addition to taking a 15% cut of used items on the site, Material Wrld plans to rake in referral fees when it sends shoppers to other sites to buy the closet items that are on display but aren’t for sale.
Sites such as Fab.com and Thrillist have successfully leveraged curated content to make sales. But fashion is particularly well-suited for the combination, Yano says. Customers don’t necessarily have a solid, consistent idea of what they’re looking for. And that makes it hard for recommendation algorithms to figure it out.
"Fashion is not so logical," she says. "What we wear today can be based on our mood, on the weather, on what event we’re going to."
The fashion-obsessed are already browsing each others' outfits online via, not just fashion apps, but visually focused sites such as Instagram, Pinterest, and Tumblr.
Why not have them buy while they’re at it?