August 22 2014

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1 posts tagged "Alexis Maybank"

Gilded Age


Only five years since its founding, Gilt Groupe has a strong claim on the hour of noon. At 12 p.m. EST, Gilt’s online-only sales offer discounted designer merchandise to an invite-only crowd that now numbers in the millions. What began with fashion, accessories, watches, and jewelry has grown to include travel, food, full-price menswear, and more. Co-founders Alexis Maybank (left) and Alexandra Wilkis Wilson are still at the helm, and this week, they publish By Invitation Only: How We Built Gilt and Changed the Way Millions Shop. The two spoke with about the company then, the company now, and where “the store in your pocket” is headed to next.

Give me the capsule history of Gilt Groupe. How did this all come about?
Alexis Maybank: Alexandra and I actually met in college, but it was really about five years later, in graduate school, where we spent the most time together. Two years after business school is when we started working on the concept of Gilt Groupe. Gilt Groupe came about as a work of five founders; it was a series of ideas, or “aha” moments if you will, that brought us to the idea that became Gilt Groupe. So for one, one of our co-founders, Kevin Ryan, spent a lot of time in France with his wife, who is French, and noticed a similar model starting to take off over there and thought this could do well in the U.S. Alexandra and I had always popped out of our offices in midtown to jump into friends-and-family invite sample sales—Zac Posen or Fendi or whatever it might be. And we loved that, and rain or shine seemed to make it to them. We took that passion and excitement for the sample sale, the little-known event that was hard to get access to but had a frenzy appeal once you got there, and thought that this could be something fantastic to take to a broader audience online.

The high fashion world is typically quite closed and hard to infiltrate, and has been, at least in the past, resistant to the idea of online. Did you have to convert people at the outset to get people involved?
Alexandra Wilkis Wilson: Of course! When we launched November 2007, many of the brands that we were working hard to convince to sell with us, many of them didn’t even sell online for full price, forget about at a discount.

AM: The process of convincing brands was [Alexandra's] full focus; today we work with over 6,000 brands, and the majority she convinced to come on. But at that time back in 2007, if you remember, there were very few places online to shop for luxury goods. It was not just convincing them that going with Gilt and doing it in the environment they’re offering and making them comfortable with the nontraditional aspect of the site, showing the beautiful kind of editorial aesthetic that we were bringing to sell their product on models, with makeup, with a full look and design, was really appealing to them. But Alexandra really was first kind of educating on selling on the Internet and e-commerce and what it could do before we even started talking about Gilt Groupe. It was almost like a two-stage process with every brand we spoke to. Continue Reading “Gilded Age” »