Ideeli: The Real Star of Fashion Week

10 Sep

With Inc. Magazine naming Ideeli the fastest growing company of the year and the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week in full swing, I thought it would be the perfect time to examine where  fashion entrepreneurs are succeeding.

With super models strutting down the catwalk, a continuous flashing of bulbs, and the sounds of thunderous applause, the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week is a dream come true for any fashion entrepreneur.

Rafael Cennamo, one of the notable newbie designers, explained to The New York Times

“Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week is a way to show the world exactly who I am.”

With notoriety, comes quite a hefty price tag. According to The New York Times article, “No Beginner Discounts at Lincoln Center,” the average cost to put on a 15-minute show can range anywhere between $30,000-$100,000, with more established designers spending up to $500,000. This is no easy feat for anyone, especially young designers,  and with an unknown return on investment, it makes taking the plunge that much more difficult. That being said, in the world of fashion many designers, including Cennamo, must find some way to, as Tim Gunn would say, “make it work.”

Fashion entrepreneurs hope to break into the business with the dream of making it big, having celebrities don their couture, and Rachel Zoe going “bananas” for their latest spring line but the reality for many is far less glamorous but possibly more profitable.

Located approximately four miles away from Lincoln Center, Ideeli is tucked away in the SoHo area on Lafayette Street. Co-founded by Paul Hurley, Ideeli offers customers steep discounts on designer brands for a limited time. Ironically, it is also one of the main sponsors of Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week.

Just named the fastest growing private company by Inc. Magazine with a growth rate of 40,822% in three years, Ideeli’s revenue is sitting pretty at $77.7 million.

Besides Paul Hurley’s perseverance, a lot of what got him to where he is today deals with making mistakes, learning, and adapting.

Initially, Hurley thought he hit jackpot gold with his Aveo, a software company but a fumble caused him to miss an IPO opportunity.

“We were on track to have a big win, and then the downturn came, and we got caught;. I was completely wiped out,” Hurley told Inc. Magazine

While continually launching other small businesses, Hurley discovered the demand for designers to unload inventory while consumers desperately desired the luxury brand.

“The day after Leman failed, which was a spectacular day for us, you could fire a gun in Saks and not hit anybody. No one was shopping. But they were shopping at Ideeli. So that was a big epiphany moment,” Hurley told Inc. Magazine

You won’t find any paparazzi or expensive cocktail parties happening at Ideeli. Instead, according to Inc Magazine., Ideeli is flanked with cheap office furniture in an extremely small setting for its hard-working staff of 200. Having around-the-clock photo shoots to ensure all 3,500 images make it online each week, dealing with an imperfect logistic system, and juggling vendor relationships creates a completely different fashion world than the circus down the street.

Ideeli, among other online flash-shopping sites, found a gold mine by offering limited time discounts. Not only are they providing an enticing, competitive environment for consumers, but designers are in desperate need to dump inventory. With continual funding, Ideeli is looking to expand into other sectors of flash sales, the latest being travel.

People wanting to break into fashion may feel like the money and thrills live on the catwalk but following the trail leads to what consumers desire and right now it is the allure of glamour without the price tag.

Even with Ideeli’s monstrous success and the excitement of designers showing their first collection at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week, it is important to remember running your own show takes a lot of work.

Coming from a small business background as the owner of an online women’s contemporary clothing store, I remember the days of being invited to the Rebecca Taylor or Tibi show during fashion week and for some reason not going; it may have had something to do with the amount of work I needed to get done. On a day-to-day basis, I rarely ever dealt with fashion but instead was involved with the mundane tasks of running the business: writing descriptive copy, handling shipments, paying invoices, developing press releases, and overseeing online advertising. Only a few times a year did I get giddy about seeing the must-haves for the coming seasons. If it sounds like a drag, most the time it was.

Even though I loved running my own business, there was a bit of relief when I decided to close the door when the economy tanked. Yes, the highs were amazing but I am definitely glad the stress, sleepless nights, and tears are gone.

Realizing Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week is displaying retail luxury at its finest, and Ideeli is offering the finest deals, flash-shopping sites are where the potential for growth is at its highest. With the economy in such an unstable state, people are looking for escapism. A Hermes bag can offer that outlet but a savings of 70% off a Chanel vintage bag seems even better in the eyes of consumers.

[Images via WikiMedia Commons, Zemanta, WikiMedia Commons]

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