A friend first introduced me to Vaunte a few weeks ago and I instantly fell in love. It incorporated all of my favorite aspects of online shopping and fashion sites into this new, exciting hybrid I'd never seen before. Vaunte presents the closets of stylish women, from magazine editors to socialites. You can shop their closets, and even learn a little more about them. Each closet is framed in a personal light, telling that woman's story with a look inside her home and who she is. It changes the landscape of shopping - not only are you buying a truly amazing designer piece, but you are buying into a piece of its history. Vaunte's founders Christian Leone and Leah Park believe that who fashion features needs to travel beyond movie stars to women with great style and points of view.
Oh, and if you want to check out Vaunte - and you should - here is a special invite for SOF readers!
SOF: How did the idea for Vaunte come about? What was the process like taking it from the initial idea to where it is today?
Leah: Christian and I met at Gilt Groupe, we both had luxury fashion backgrounds. We obviously immediately clicked, we were in charge of the site, the brand, the voice, the shoots - and Christian was responsible for all the big brands we were able to get. Christian's background is so incredible, VP of Communications at Armani - he's the one who knows everyone in fashion, I'm the brainiac, the nerd.
I was at Gilt for almost five years, Christian was there for four and a half - we both loved Gilt dearly but wanted to work with each other. There's so many fantastic women out there, but only celebrities get featured in magazines, you have to be an actor or on a reality show. We were talking about Christian's friends and how amazing it would be to feature real women, go into their closets and look at their clothes - like how my sister and I shop each other's closets. Christian just asked his friends, like Nina Garcia, and we started shooting his best friends. We've been up for two months and it's amazing...
A lot of these women we are featuring and profiling have real style and great clothes. It isn't about a stylistic approach to these women, it's about going into their homes, closets and lifestyles. It's about choosing the great pieces we want to sell, that are in great condition - there's a great value in that. Everything is beautiful whether one or four seasons old. And it's kind of a voyeuristic approach - we see their lives, how they interact with their families - it's a personal thing we're doing.
We want to create a social set called "starlets." Anyone with a great point of view should be celebrated - we're hoping to change people's ideas about who is a celebrity. You don't have to be an actor! Celebrities can simply be someone with great style and vision! They have great stories, and they're real women.
SOF: You guys are a dream team of technology, fashion and e-commerce. How do your backgrounds contribute to creating the formula for Vaunte's success?
Leah: Before Gilt, I was responsible for re-branding at Bergdorf, creating 5F. I was the first person to redesign the magazine. Before that, it was the holy grail, no one could touch it, so that was so amazing. When I went to Gilt, same thing: I was able to create this brand. It was unheard of, no fashion house was online - I was actually made fun of, no one thought these fashion brands could be fresh and exciting and online.
Christian: I moved to NY in 1996 and have always worked in fashion. My first job was at Paul Wilmont. Eleanor Lambert was a fashion PR icon and introduced me to the whole industry, and got me my first job at Wilmont. I worked at Hamptons Magazine and Ocean Drive. I saw how fashion changed from then to today. There was no online fashion then, it was about fashion houses relating to magazines. But magazines brought the coverage of the social world to the celebrity world. The celebrity aspect is about sales. Fashion could be more fun and now it's become very serious, because it's such a money-making industry with the celebrity factor and sales - everything is strategy. But real women are a great source. We're not opposed to celebrities, but it becomes a whole other thing and loses what these special, stylish women are. We've been focusing on women in NY and recently in LA and San Francisco to find and identify these women. If you're a woman in St. Louis you can identify with these women, they have careers and families. If you love fashion, this is a direct link.
SOF: For all potential Vaunte sellers out there, what are you looking for when it comes to what sells on Vaunte?
Christian: Nothing really so specific, but we like that woman who encompasses everything - she's attractive, intelligent, has something to say, a point of view. Like when you're at a dinner party and you're next to the most beautiful woman and she has nothing to say. We want to find these women who have something to say and give them a voice. This is real curation. These women [that are featured on Vaunte] have been purchasing a collection for themselves. Some branch out and are adventurous. Some have things they've never even worn. It's so interesting, the differences between them.
Leah: We do look for luxury brands and make sure they're in great condition. We value them by bringing them to our in-house brand merchandiser. They make sure it's current and relevant now. We had one closet that was only vintage Chanel, it sold amazingly. We want it to be something we're proud of. You don't come to Vaunte to sell your cast-offs, you come to sell something you treasure but just won't wear it often enough. I had a Chanel bag from Bergdorf that I didn't wear after two years, but loved, so I passed it on.
We had closet professionals go in and assess that women only wear 20% of their closets! 80% are unused. We realized we had something there, to tap into that 80% women aren't wearing but love.
SOF: Who are some of the style icons you're loving right now - and would love to feature on Vaunte?
Christian: Gwyneth Paltrow, Aerin Lauder, they're different but similar - we would love to do those two.
Leah: Victoria Beckham, Kate Moss, Carine Roitfeld - I love their combination of vintage, easy, sexy, edgy and black.
Christian likes an uptown lady look, I like edgy and black. No one is more elegant than Christian.
Christian: We have two distinct styles, that's the whole thing about fashion. I can appreciate the downtown eclectic look, but I gravitate toward uptown lady - but it all depends on who you are and what you're doing. I admire a woman who is so well dressed and put together. I love a beautiful and stylish lady, but also someone who has something to say, and a real firecracker.
SOF: Where do you shop - after Vaunte, of course! What are your favorite online and brick and mortar stores?
Leah: In New York I'm at Curve and KiKi. In LA it's Maxfield.
Christian: I love Bergdorf. I think the men's store is so well done, they have everything I like and want. I also like Uniqlo, their jeans are my favorite. I'm obsessed with their cashmere sweaters. It's that high and low mix. I also love Fred Segal in LA.
SOF: What is the last thing you bought?
Christian: Online - it was Vans. They make customized shoes and I got camouflage with orange trim.
Leah: While I was at Maxfield in LA, I bought a beautiful Thomas Wylde gown, it's like a champagne color. It's elegant and I usually don't do elegant.
Handbags and Hugs,