Want to clean out your closet and get something in return? There’s no shortage of options out there today. In the last two years, secondhand marketplaces with fashionable leanings—Poshmark, Threadflip, MaterialWrld, Copious, Tradesy, HipSwap, Style.ly, among others—have made it increasingly easy to buy and sell secondhand apparel and accessories online.
Instead of a place to earn extra cash on what you no longer wear or find a deal on gently worn items at less than retail, New York-based startup Bib + Tuck aims to be something different: a marketplace where real money is secondary to participation.
"We think of them as prettier versions of eBay. We’re really trying to create a community where women can shop without spending," says cofounder Sari Azout, a former trader who founded the site earlier this year with longtime friend Sari Bibliowicz (yes, along with sharing a company and a love of fashion, the two also share a first name).
Officially launching this week, the site allows invited members to upload images of items they’re willing to part with and designate a number of Bib + Tuck bucks that they’d be willing to accept from other members in exchange. In this way, items and their corresponding assignations of bucks pass from member to member, with no real money changing hands. That said, money isn’t completely out of the equation. Bib + Tuck makes money through a flat shipping fee paid per item, and it also sells bucks in small increments to members who need more than they have on hand.
The experience may sound like a complicated way to exchange goods, especially when good 'ole dollars and cents could provide a ready alternative. But Bib + Tuck’s Azout says relying on community currency keeps the focus on fashion and its enjoyment.
"I think fashion is really about expression. When you put money in the equation, then it becomes a transaction," she explains.
Since Azout and Bibliowicz sent out an initial email inviting about 100 friends to the platform in July, they’ve slowly grown their membership to approximately 2,500 with a wait list of 5,000 or more. But perhaps more interesting than the numbers are the names populating the member ranks. You’ll find Sasha Spielberg, daughter of Stephen, and Kimberly Ovitz, daughter of Michael, listed, as well as designer Yigal Azrouel, whose current offerings include out-of-the-box runway items from previous seasons, and numerous fashion bloggers, fashion writers, and staffers hailing from companies such as Diane von Furstenberg, Ralph Lauren, StyleCaster, ILWYW.com, Yves Saint Laurent, and Opening Ceremony. Not everyone is necessarily plucked from the ultra-elite: There are attorneys and students and yoga instructors and journalists and plenty of social media experts and digital strategists in the mix.
But just as much as the high-profile names and pretty profile images set the site apart, so does the very fact that members are willing to share not only their real names, but also their occupations and social media contact details. In fact, in order to join, a real name is required, and pictures and additional details are encouraged. The result feels like a club, rather than a marketplace open to anyone.
Insider-y language adds to the feeling of exclusivity: Items aren’t bought, sold, or traded. Instead, members bib items they no longer want or need and tuck items the items they’d like to acquire. Once a member tucks, say, a new necklace she spots on the site, the company issues a prepaid USPS shipping label to the owner, who then packages and ships the item.
And while secondhand marketplaces typically rely on power sellers to consistently post merchandise and shoppers to buy it, Bib + Tuck’s community currency model encourages members to participate on the platform as both bibbers and tuckers, as it’s only by posting and successfully bibbing items that members can hope to accrue enough bucks to tuck the items they want in the future.
A site redesign accompanies the launch out of beta stage this week, as well as updates such as increased invitations for existing members to send to friends. Even so, Azout says the company is in no hurry to abandon its status as a place for fashion insiders:
"We keep telling ourselves that we shouldn’t let go of our mission of building something exclusive," she says.
[Image: Bib & Tuck]