Chelsey Bingham is the cofounder and CEO of the New York-based Wiseling, an online marketplace for high-quality pre-owned clothing. More niche than eBay yet more targeted than Etsy, the idea behind Wiseling is to unlock the value in closets around the country filled with fine fashion that are just gathering dust. The first sellers will be admitted to the site today, with a private beta launch planned for later this week.
FAST COMPANY: What is Wiseling?
CHELSEY BINGHAM: Wiseling is a marketplace for vintage and pre-owned fashion. It provides a platform for people to turn their closet into an online shop, so they can add value to their clothing purchases by focusing on quality and choice rather than quantity. We’re hoping that when people can sell the clothes they already have, then when they’re initially purchasing clothing, they can buy pieces that are more valuable and higher quality, because they’ll possibly be getting a return on that clothing–they won’t just be throwing it away one day.
How’d you get the idea for Wiseling?
What inspired Wiseling was realizing that many people are buying clothing for specific occasions, and then throwing them out really quickly. It sucks to pay $2,000 for something you’ll only wear once, but people are still doing it. Some people are using eBay and Etsy and even Craigslist to sell clothing, but because those are such large marketplaces, they’re oversaturated. When you list an item, it gets lost in a sea of other items. Wiseling is more of a niche marketplace. We have really targeted filters, so people can search for specific styles or details.
Are you that person who’s always raiding her friends’ closets?
I did a lot when I was younger. Friends would tell me they don’t wear something anymore, and I’d say, “I would love to wear this,” and they’d say, “Sure, it’s just sitting there…”
Fit is a big problem with shopping for clothing online. At least for someone who’s oddly shaped, like me.
We have search filters, so you can choose sleeve length. Fit is difficult, but if you can get matched up with someone who has the same style as you, and you guys have a very similar body type, it would be easy to continue buying from that person, or be alerted when that person lists new things. Women already do this offline, at clothing swap parties, where friends get together and bring items they no longer want. It’s not something we’ve built in yet, but we have ideas for ways of connecting people who are similar and having them follow each other on Wiseling.
Is this your first startup?
It is. I was in real estate development before this, and then I was studying to go to architecture school. But I kept meeting people from the startup world. I’m a super host on Airbnb. Over two years, I’ve probably had 200 stays in my apartment in Brooklyn–I have people here almost every day. Airbnb really helped inspire Wiseling–that idea of people getting more value of something already in their possession. As soon as I started thinking more about the idea, I kept meeting more people in startups. Before, it was a world I had no idea about. Then I had all these different experiences that made me realize I could actually make this idea that I thought was once kind of crazy into a reality.
This interview has been condensed and edited.