Brands who want to find fashion-obsessed millennials should look no farther than VFILES, the fashion social-network-cum-retail-space that relaunched today with mobile-friendly design and more capability for users to connect.
Since being founded in September 2012, VFILES was a place where fashion insiders and wannabes could follow each other’s profiles and also shop, like Pinterest with an ecommerce component.
With today’s update, VFILES will enable users to comment on each other’s posts, @ mention each other like they do on Twitter and Instagram, and shop from their phones.
“What makes fashion social media different [from mainstream social media] is fashion people like to do specific things,” Quay said. “Yes, we do like to shop. We want to be able to buy things. We want to be entertained. We want to see what’s going on in our little world.”
The site has 85,000 registered users, which seems paltry compared to larger networks like Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. But because of VFILES’ niche focus on upstart fashion professionals and the people who want to follow them, the network’s reach is much more targeted to a specific customer. For example, 90 per cent of users are under 35.
Also, users who shop on VFILES spend an average of $US175 to $US200 per transaction, according to the company.
The site’s 85,000 registered users are all actively interested in fashion, and their activity results in 18 million monthly social media impressions with 1.5 million pageviews per month.
The site hosts 4,500+ young designers; 3,000+ models; 7,000+ stylists, hair and makeup artists, and creative directors; 4,000+ photographers; and 4,000+ DJs and producers. The remaining 62,000 users are “highly engaged fashion enthusiasts and professionals,” according to the company.
VFILES functions through a series of interconnected profiles, or content hubs, from models, designers, artists and more. Users are free to search hashtags and usernames in order to find the content they want to see. There’s also a shopping tag where users can buy or sell their work. The site’s focus on community and trendsetting led it to birth the healthgoth and normcore trends.
The first brand to be offered for sale on VFILES was Hood By Air, the New York upstart whose founders were just named creative directors of DKNY — a stamp of approval that means they have truly arrived as fashion industry mainstays and don’t need to worry about losing their status as the hot new thing anymore.
Quay says some VFILES users have been noticed by modelling agents thanks to their presence on the platform. Designers’ entire outfits are snapped up by the likes of Kanye West and Rihanna, who are always looking for something new and can find it on VFILES. Below, Rihanna wears a T-shirt by VFILES designer Hyein Seo.
The startup also recently opened a flagship store in downtown New York City. They also host a fashion show each New York Fashion Week. Users compete on the platform for the chance to show a collection of their own designs at the VFILES Made Fashion show.
One of Quay’s main goals is to “take the stodgy feeling out of fashion.”
“Look at the Met Ball,” she said. “Everything is about, ‘Oh, are you going?’ And it’s arrogant in a way, because it’s like, ‘You can’t come.’ And it says all the wrong things about fashion.”
“VFILES becomes a place where you can communicate with others, communicate with fashion or pop culture at large,” Quay said. “You can be part of a movement and it sounds really corny, but that’s what life is about right now. It’s about identifying with something and being a part of it.”
The company also works with established brands, promoting campaigns or products within the community while collecting revenue from these partnerships. They recently worked with Aldo on promoting an AIDS campaign, and Calvin Klein is a mentor in their Fashion Week program. They have also partnered with Aveda, Oribe, Nordstrom, Harvey Nichols, Red Bull, Perrier and more.
Revenue for VFILES also comes from their shop in New York City, and their wholesale business providing product from their designers to more than 30 retailers globally, Quay said. The startup is self-funded now, but actively fundraising for the first time.
The startup also has a music incubator program known as VFILES Loud, which launched in 2014. They were one of the first to feature iLoveMakonnen with a live performance. The artist collaborated with Drake around the same time and was later nominated for a Grammy for his first single.
Next, VFILES will focus on making it possible for users to shop directly from uploaded photos. This would be a boon to the startup, as many in the fashion industry have complained that Instagram (the industry’s hands-down favourite app) would be much more useful to brands if it had external links or links that enabled people to shop others’ accounts.
“Fashion brands right now are trying to work out where we fit into their life cycle,” Quay said. “We’re really excited to be carving out a new niche, and as advertisers start to shift away from traditional print programming, we want to be there to show them that we can be a great outlet for their brand to reach a millennial consumer.”