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Interview with Lillian Alselmi from Modalyst
1. Some of our readers might not understand well the concept of e-showroom. Can you tell us with your own words what Modalyst is and what differentiates it from other e-showrooms?
Modalyst is an online wholesale platform that connects buyers and brands. Our goal is not only to increase our designers’ orders but also act as a platform through which they can run their entire wholesale operations.
We specialize in connecting emerging, progressive labels with independent retailers all over the world. We are the only platform that is focusing on providing opportunities for younger brands to gain exposure and maintain control over their wholesale business.
The Group Buy page is our most unique feature on the site. We are exposing our designers’ orders in real time on the site to encourage new buyers to purchase their items. For example, if a buyer in London sees that a store in New York is buying a bag, they are likely to want to join the order. Buyers, just like consumers, want to know what is trending and be able to react quickly.
Additionally, our Group Buy offers designers the ability to meet their minimum order requirements by allowing a group of buyers to collectively purchase an item. This allows designers to gain wider distribution while maintaining their production minimums.
2. Jill Sherman and Alain Miguel are the co-founders of this platform. What can you tell us about them?
We are lucky to have great leaders here at Modalyst. Both Jill and Alain come the fashion industry and bring different perspectives to the table. Jill has been in fashion for 11 years, managing the buying team at Harvey Nichols and merchandising for Prada.Alain spent 7 years at J.P Morgan and designed a successful polo collection while an undergrad at Yale.
3. Can you explain us how did they come up with the idea of creating Modalyst?
Modalyst was born at MIT, an unassuming locale where fashion and technology collide. While a buyer for Harvey Nichols, Jill was frustrated by the expensive and tiresome trade shows, where designers' minimums were high and department stores got better pricing on merchandise. It was difficult to compete against stores which could buy volume. Modalyst was launched to level the playing field for smaller retailers, where aggregated orders become market power for indie stores.
4. Which is your role in Modalyst?
I am Head of Designer Sales at Modalyst which means I get to work with all the amazing and inspiring brands that join us! As a former womenswear designer myself, I am very aware of the frustrations that come with finding stores so I love being able to offer a new and improved approach to connecting with retailers. We look for brands that we feel passionately about and are the right fit for Modalyst. For someone who loves fashion, this does not qualify as work- I am constantly inspired by the brands I speak with and motivated to help them grow.
5. Modalyst’s main offering to registered designers is the opportunity to connect with interested buyers around the world. What’s your marketing strategy to reach the buyers and what other services do you offer to the designers?
Modalyst is an open platform which means once a member, you can see all the retailers and designers on the site. We feel strongly that designers should have the ability to prospect stores (and not just the other way around)! For example, we allow designers to “follow” any retailer they are interested in connecting with. If the retailer reciprocates, a line of communication is open. We differ from a typical showroom in that we are providing tools to designers that they can use to market themselves and communicate with the buyers directly. We just act as the facilitator.
We are constantly looking to engage the retailers on the site. In fact, we send a daily digest to buyers to update them on all the designers that they are following including new items that are uploaded and any products that are in the Group Buy. We also have a Retail Relationship Manager, Elyse, who is speaking with several stores on a daily basis to educate them on our new designers and products that might interest them.
Beyond the sales channel, we offer designers a comprehensive wholesale management tool that includes digital, clickable and customizable linesheets, inbox communication and organization of all previous, pending and current orders so they can track their progress.
6. Which is the reach of Modalyst right now in terms of number of buyers registered and from which countries? How many of them are from the US? Any interesting market apart from the US?
We have over 3,000 retailers currently on Modalyst representing 75 different countries making us a truly global platform. 60% of the stores are located in the US they so this a great opportunity for international brands to get exposure to the American market.
Additionally, we have seen increased interest from Asia and Australia which are two very interesting markets for us.
7. Which are the requirements you ask for to all participating designers?
We curate our designers based on their branding, products and experience. The designers that do the best on Modalyst are those that have quality products with high res imagery and come with at least two wholesale accounts. The platform works best when the designers are engaged and understand how to properly communicate with retailers.
8. What can you tell us about the future plans for Modalyst?
We have a lot of exciting things in the pipeline here at Modalyst! In fact, we recently sent out a survey to our designers and have already begun to roll out features based on their response.
For example we are working on developing our matching capabilities on the site. Currently we have items that are suggested to retailers based on things they are buying as well as suggestions to designers as to which retailers may be worth “following.” In the near future we would like to go even further and use the data we have collected to make more specific recommendations to both our designers and buyers.
We are also looking to develop content more regularly. For example, writing stories on seasonal trends to offer retailers not only products but also advice on how to merchandise those products in their stores. In fact, we have a partnership with one of the biggest trend forecasters in the US that will soon offer sophisticated analysis of the upcoming trends to our members.
9. Modalyst targets mainly emerging and independent designers to showcase their collections through its platform. How would you say the market is evolving for these independent designers in the US?
That is a great question- I think the landscape for these designers is changing dramatically. When I was a designer there were only two ways to get into stores- either set up shop at a trade show or hire a showroom. Now, with tools like Modalyst, these brands have an opportunity to reach an audience that is a better demographic for their collection and at a much more approachable price.
We are seeing younger independent designers with unique products become more and more popular around the world. The smarter the consumers become, the more difficult it is to sell them things that everyone else has, so we are seeing stores actively looking for new edgy brands. Modalyst allows stores to not only discover these brands but also be the first to market with our shorter lead times and flexible minimums.
10. And specifically for emerging designers from abroad wanting to enter into the US market?
In the past, the only ways for international brands to find US buyers was through tradeshows or showrooms which can be exclusive and exorbitantly expensive. Additionally, both strategies tend to focus on domestic network with little to no international reach.
Through partnerships like Beiñ + Modalyst, designers can now use the success they have found domestically and leverage it through our international platform to find US buyers.