As the charming 13-year-old behind the Style Rookie blog, Tavi Gevinson amassed a cult following of fashion lovers of all ages. Her intelligent commentary and girlish fawning over fashion soon made her a regular in the front rows of designers like Marc Jacobs. With her new-found fame, she wanted to create a publishing platform that spoke directly to teen girls like herself. After failed venture attempts with former Jane magazine editor Jane Pratt, the now 15-year-old launched her own print and online magazine, called Rookie, in early September.
Just as the name implies, the concept of this start-up is simple: Members of the site can rent expensive designer clothes at a fraction of their cost—and have the dress delivered to their doorstep. Founded in 2009 by Jennifer Hyman and Jennifer Fleiss, the company ignored the industry trends of diffusion lines and designer imitations, and bought a small inventory of real designer dresses to rent out to a small membership. The idea took off. Rent the Runway now boasts hundreds of designers' dresses, and recently added handbags, jewelry, and wedding attire.
Jason Ross knew that there was an under-served market in the emerging fashion flash sales industry: men. The Ohio-native launched Jack Threads in 2008, and it was an instant success. The site works much like its successful competitor GILT, but focuses on curating a solid inventory of discounted designer street, skate, and surf-wear for men. Now with as many as 2 million members, the site proves it's haute to go niche.
Marissa Evans founded this social style network in March 2010. How does it work? Members post a photo of themselves in an outfit and receive immediate feedback from other members (harsh unnecessary critics are filtered out). Evans wanted to make sure the site was a dynamic social environment. Reviewers can be voted up if their advice proves useful, and members can also select which friends see their posts. Recently, the company has partnered with Sephora and the Gap to have expert stylists give advice to members.
Ari Golderberg founded StyleCaster in 2007, and has described it as "Facebook meets Conde Nast"—an innovative platform for reading about high-end fashion, sharing creative ideas, and, of course, shopping. The key to StyleCaster's success is in the curation: Users can shop by "look" or ask advice per category (makeup, hair, body, etc.).
Founded by Paul Hurley in 2007, ideeli (this year's Inc. 500 No. 1 fastest-growing company) is continuing to generate new members. The site sells everything from clothing to home goods to travel goodies. Hurley told Inc. that his company's dependable growth comes from an aggressive pursuit of suppliers and forming good relationships with both established brands and up-and-coming designers. It's this process that has given ideeli a loyal customer base—rare in the ever-expanding daily deals realm.
After rising the ranks as an editor at edgy fashion mags such as V and Vogue Hommes Japan, Nicola Formichetti soared to international stardom as the avant-garde fashion guru to singer/artist Lady Gaga (he's responsible for the infamous "meat dress"). He was then named the fashion director at Parisian fashion house Thierry Mugler. His first mens collection debuted in Paris in January. While not a traditional start-up, Formichetti's signature style has become a force within the industry in a matter of a few years, and that's an inspiration to plenty of companies eager to build their brands.