A Q&A with Hello La Mode founder and CEO Eric Gagnaire. The New York City–based company was founded in 2012 and raised $500K in Seed funding in late July from three undisclosed Angels.
SUB: Please describe Hello La Mode, and the value proposition you offer consumers.
Gagnaire: Hello La Mode is the premier certified marketplace for luxury resale. We provide the opportunity for fashion lovers from the USA and Canada to sell and buy high end fashion from their favorite designers at an obtainable price.
For buyers, there is an added peace-of-mind knowing every fashion item they purchase has been meticulously checked in person by our objective fashion experts for authenticity and conformity to the seller’s description.
For sellers, listings are free. Hello La Mode charges a nominal percentage as our commission on top of the seller’s asking price, which are much less than reputable consignment boutiques. Sellers also know that their buyers are educated fashion fans who buy from Hello La Mode for the built-in prestige and security.
SUB: Who are your target users?
Gagnaire: Everybody. Hello La Mode offers luxury fashion for women, men and children. Our community is made up of discerning fashion mavens who appreciate luxury, have elevated taste and love style. Sellers are shoppers who might make the occasional expensive impulse buy or work in the fashion industry and have excess pieces from their collections. Buyers are savvy shoppers who love to live luxuriously on a budget or might have missed a favorite fashion piece from past seasons and have a second chance to obtain it now.
SUB: Who do you consider to be your competition?
Gagnaire: There are resale marketplaces like Ebay, Threadflip and Copious, but their concepts are not similar to ours.
SUB: What differentiates Hello La Mode from the competition?
Gagnaire: We are the only site that focuses solely on luxury and prestige brands. We are also the only site to offer the customer service of manually checking each and every item that is sold for the buyer.
SUB: When was the company founded and what were the first steps you took in establishing it?
Gagnaire: The company was founded in March 2012 by myself and two other entrepreneurs, Mathieu Bidart and Thierry Sebba, three former employees from the French e-merchant Price Minister (Rakuten Group). We moved from France to New York to be right in the heart of the Fashion District. We hired Mariana Leung, the fashion designer and blogger behind Ms. Fabulous to bring her fashion industry experience to our operation.
SUB: What was the inspiration behind the idea for Hello La Mode? Was there an ‘aha’ moment, or was the idea more gradual in developing?
Gagnaire: The idea was born during a vacation trip in New York when the founders realized how successful secondhand luxury clothes shops were among fashionistas in Soho. Debating with friends, we discovered that fashion lovers tend to avoid buying secondhand luxury apparel online because of quality and potential authenticity problems. We thought offering to manually check every item by an experienced fashion expert would solve this issue.
SUB: How did you come up with the name?
Gagnaire: We wanted a name with a French touch and introduce ourselves to fashion lovers—so Hello La Mode was perfect.
SUB: What have the most significant obstacles been so far to building the company?
Gagnaire: We have a wonderful selection of luxury fashion items on sale right now, but would love to grow our database to even greater numbers.
SUB: You just raised $500K in Seed funding. Why was this a good time to raise this round, and how do you plan to use the new funds?
Gagnaire: These funds will allow us to support our rising activity. We are creating a mobile and tablet application and developing our team of fashion experts.
SUB: Do you plan to raise additional funds in the near future?
Gagnaire: Yes, for the end of the year or early 2013.
SUB: How does the company generate revenue or plan to generate revenue?
Gagnaire: Simply by adding a commission—between 20-to-24 percent—to the seller’s asking price for each fashion item. The average order on Hello La Mode is $300.
SUB: What are your goals for Hello La Mode over the next year or so?
Gagnaire: We are planning to expand to South America and then Japan. Our goal is to be the industry leader in luxury fashion.
Hello La Mode – www.hellolamode.com