Tuesday, March 20, 2018

CoEdition raises $4 million from NEA and others for its plus-sized shopping site for women

The average American woman is plus-sized, but only 18 percent of clothing sold in 2016 was size 14 or higher. This disconnect in the world of fashion looked like an opportunity to a team of four former Gilt execs, who are today launching a new e-commerce site, CoEdition. The site will cater to women sizes 10 through 26, offering a curated selection of contemporary clothing from top brands, including Stuart Weitzman, Tahari, Rachel Roy, and others.

The company is backed by Gilt Groupe founder Kevin Ryan, former Gilt technology head Kent Helbig, Gilt’s fashion director and head of brand acquisition Brooke Cundiff, and former Gilt Chief Merchandising Officer, Keith George, now CoEdition CEO.

“Brooke was doing some consulting for a brand in this space, and realized there were a lot of new brands coming on and a lot of momentum in the market,” explains George, of CoEdition’s founding. “But no one was really bringing it all together. No one was bringing all these different brands under one roof,” he says.

The new site aims to better cater to that customer sized 10 and up, helping them find the right item, the right fit, as well as discover new brands to try.

At launch, CoEdition features over 1,000 items from 20 brands, but plans to grow its selection over the course of 2018 to reach 150 brands, and tens of thousands of items. This will include clothing, accessories, bags, shoes, swimwear, and lingerie, at “contemporary” price points – that is, the average price point for the items it carries is around $150.

“We like to say is that we’re aspirational, but accessible,” notes George.

Purchases will ship for free for the time being, and CoEdition expects to open up international shipping by mid-April.

The startup is not the first to cater to plus-sized women.

Online clothing subscription service Gwynnie Bee allows women to rent the latest trends, while Dia & Co. is more like a Stitch Fix-style subscription box for sizes 14 and up. Meanwhile, most major retailers carry plus size lines online, and many individual brands carry their plus sizes online, even if not in-store. Amazon has entered the space as well, with several in-house brands of its own, catering to the plus-sized market.

CoEdition doesn’t plan to compete with the subscription box companies, George tells TechCrunch, nor is it discounting the Amazon threat. Instead, its focus will be on helping women through a combination of data science techniques for personalized recommendations, along with curated styling guidance on site.

However, these are longer-term goals for the site; right now the plan is to launch and begin to collect more data on who their customer is.

To help get the word out about its arrival, CoEdition is launching with an influencer program, which will feature the influencer’s favorite looks and point-of-view right on the homepage. The site debuts with picks from L.A.’s Alexa Michael May, and new influencers will be added every week or two.

The site will also feature new brands on a weekly basis, and eventually, user-generated content in the form of customer photos showcasing how they’re wearing the clothes.

CoEdition will also leverage Facebook and Instagram ads, which have proven to be a popular way of alerting consumers about new fashion brands.

Formally incorporated in October 2017, New York-based CoEdition has raised a $4 million seed round led by NEA (Tony Florence), with participation from General Catalyst, Primary, and BBG Ventures.