After a year of soul-searching, Fab cofounder and former creative director Bradford Shellhammer is back in the flash sales game with his forthcoming startup Bezar, an online short-term sales hub for designers who are hand picked by Shellhammer.
Sound familiar? Shellhammer admits that the site, when it launches this spring, will work a lot like the original Fab, which he quietly left in November 2013. "I'm a firm believer in flash," he told Fast Company. Although he's not calling Bezar a flash sales site, but rather a collection of pop-up shops, "because it's a little different from flash," Shellhammer said. "This is not excess inventory. It might not even have been made yet when we sell it."
"There is a big difference in my eyes between that and the pop-up shop model," he added. "Discount is not the driving factor here. It's about newness, exposure."
Flash, in this case, instead refers to the experience. Bezar will sell items in four categories: home, art, accessories, and jewelry. Each day, a single designer will have a pop-up shop in a given category to sell unique designs, not excess inventory at a discounted price. The designers will fit into Shellhammer's candy-colored taste profile, which he says has matured since his stint at the outdoorsy e-retailer Backcountry this summer. The campaigns will last for around three days, at which point another Shellhammer-approved collection will come in. The name, Bezar, refers to a bazaar and bizarre—the things the site hopes to embody.
What sets Bezar apart from Fab, Shellhammer says, is partnerships with more established brands, which will use the platform to sell designer collaborations and new collections. Fab did some of that, launching a new Kate Spade line on the site, for example. This time around, however, big brands will be a regular part of the site. "The hip, new, undiscovered next to the iconic—they lend credibility to one another," Shellhammer said.
Why does Shellhammer think this familiar formula will work the second time around? After raising over $300 million in funding and landing in the $1 billion valuation club, things started to go south for Fab, which laid off 300 to 700 of its employees just as Shellhammer left in late 2013. With Jason Goldberg at the helm, Fab has since moved away from its curated, flash-sales roots to focus on furniture, with the launch of Hem, a new Internet-based furniture shop late last year.
Despite Fab's fall from grace, Shellhammer's redo has attracted a cadre of investors, with a $2.25 million round led by Lerer Ventures. The initiative has also collected an interesting crew of advisers and angel investors, including Whoopi Goldberg and the design guru Yves Behar. Shellhammer will act as CEO, a more operations-oriented role than he had at Fab; his founding team includes former private equity investor Justin Chen as CFO and former Fab employees Matt Baer (also of Quirky) and PieterJan Mattan as COO and creative director, respectively.
Designers and shoppers alike miss the original Fab, Shellhammer says. "Someone did not come along and replace what Fab had done," he said. The world still needs a Fab, and this time around he is the one with the vision. "I am much more talented than a guy who can pick color. I have a vision of this thing that needs to exist in the world."