The typical independent clothing store operates on a centuries-old model: Picking and choosing the best of what a certain brand has to offer each season, figuring out which pieces are most likely to resonate with your customer, and then buying it at wholesale in hopes that most of your selection moves at full price.
As a result, consumers possibly miss out on some of the most fire pieces a brand has to offer. It’s no secret that plenty of retailers have to buy “safer” than before, opting for democratic colorways and versatile items that appeal to the broadest spectrum of people possible. That means a lot of more directional, statement-making items get left by the wayside, and some of the most eye-catching garments on the runway or a lookbook get a very limited release.
SEAM is a new shopping app that hopes to change that. Founded by Justin Hruska, former GQ writer Jake Woolf, and DONDA-affiliated designer Nate Brown, the app hopes to empower independent labels and adventurous consumers alike.
“My experience in the past—not only as a writer at GQ, but as a person who likes to shop—is that any retailer, whether it’s a high-end department store or a little tiny boutique, trades on their curation, first and foremost,” says Jake Woolf, editorial director at SEAM. “They can have different brands, they can have different products from the same brands in other stores, but at the end of the day, they’re curating a small selection of products.”
The platform essentially works by directly aggregating everything a brand has to offer on its existing e-commerce site. Users are able to follow the brands they like or scroll through everything like a feed and see what catches their eye. In this way, they’re putting the curation of a brand into the hands of a consumer who knows his or her personal taste, as opposed to a store buyer who has to cater to a broader purview.
“We’re putting 100% of their product selection on each one of their sites in one place,” Woolf continues. “So for you as a shopper, now you don’t have to check four different stores for the best product selection, because you’ll know the entire product range.”
It’s not just helpful for consumers, but also gives brands an incentive to participate in the platform. The team did their homework to assess other shopping aggregators on the market, and realized that lots of them partner with third-party retailers and take high commissions. SEAM partners directly with brands and implements a unique decreasing commission structure and a low rate to be on the app. They also make more money through selling on SEAM as opposed to being stocked in a boutique.
“These brands that are just getting by on the skin of their teeth want to sell an item for $400, but really they have to make it for $40, sell it a store for $140, and then the store gets to sell it for $400,” explains Woolf. “So the store, just by mere virtue of carrying the product in a store, gets more profit than the people who actually made the product.”
SEAM plans to launch this weekend with a selection of 15 brands. Each partner has a say in the look and feel of their section, which will hew as closely as possible to the brand vision. Hruska worked with SEAM’s co-founding developer, Prince Agrawal, to perfect SEAM’s experience. There’s an API that takes even takes item measurements into account, and compares sizing across the platform to help consumers know when something is oversized or slim-fit.
In addition to its launch partners, SEAM will also be carrying its first in-house product, a small selection of hoodies in blue, light gray, charcoal, and red. They cost $110. To promote the app, Woolf and Hruska took to the streets of New York to give away a small run of tie-dyed hoodies. While there are plans to expand more into the physical space in the future, for now SEAM will remain a mobile-exclusive experience.
“We’re an eCommerce market place first and foremost, and that’s our primary purpose,” says Hruska. “However, we just feel like in 2018, it’s important really have a brand identity from the jump that shows people what our general aesthetic is, what our taste is, and also just get them excited about the platform.”
SEAM’s already got some early high-profile fans in guys like Pete Wentz, who recently signed on as an official partner in the platform. It also plans to dial up its offerings with exclusive products as early as 2019. There are also rumblings of bringing SEAM to a more IRL context as soon as November, which would see Nate Brown cooking up some ideas with some of the brand partners.
“We can do whatever we want really and that is really exciting for us because the whole thing is wide open right now,” says Woolf.
SEAM launches on the Apple App Store on October 20.
- Photography: Matt Martin
- Model: Dan McSweeney
- Styling: Jake Woolf
- Additional Items: Grailed