Top Blogs of 2012: Modalyst, the New Online Marketplace for Emerging Designers and Boutiques
Interview with Co-Founders Jill Sherman and Alain Miguel
Modalyst is a curated, online marketplace connecting emerging designers and independent boutiques. This is an exclusive community of buyers and brands that are tired of the traditional way of ordering inventory each season through trade shows and showrooms. Modalyst also creates an experience of collective buying, where boutique buyers can test new brands with less restrictive minimums, increase their purchasing power collectively to compete with larger retailers, and buy regularly instead of seasonally to keep up with fashion trends. We had the pleasure of interviewing Modalyst co-founders Jill Sherman and Alain Miguel.
The Modalyst team is made up of CEO and co-founder Jill Sherman, COO/CFO and co-founder Alain Miguel, and VP of Engineering Omar Abudayyeh. Jill has been working within the luxury sector of fashion for over 11 years, developing an acute understanding of retail and editorial environments. She started her career as a fashion assistant at American and Italian Vogue. Then she worked at Harvey Nichols Hong Kong as the fashion resources manager. Before starting the Modalyst, she was running the Miu Miu visual department at Prada USA. She also held a similar position at Prada/Miu Miu for the Asia Pacific region. Jill was educated at Tufts University and graduated Cum Laude. In 2012, she received her MBA at MIT Sloan from the Sloan Fellows Program of Innovation and Global Leadership. She also attended the Program for Leadership Development at Harvard Business School.
Alain Miguel holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science from Yale University and is currently a first-year MBA candidate at MIT Sloan School of Management. Prior to Sloan, Alain spent four years as finance professional at JPMorgan Chase in New York City. In college, Alain launched a menswear polo line and understands the predicament of emerging designers as they attempt to manage production expenses, understand their target customer, and promote their brand.
Omar Abudayyeh is a recent graduate of MIT who double majored in mechanical engineering and biological engineering. He has recently been accepted into Harvard as an MD/PhD student, but is deferring due to his passion for Modalyst. Omar has been nationally recognized by Amgen, Intel, Siemens, Tylenol, Lowe’s, and the Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship through Congress for his achievements. He was also selected as the best graduating engineering student from MIT (Henry Ford II Scholar) and for the MIT Arab Student Organization’s Science and Technology Undergraduate Student Achievement Award.
For Jill, the inspiration behind Modalyst was that she loved discovering new brands and scours the world for independent fashion. As a buyer, she desires to empower the people who discover the designers that her company carries. As for Alain, he reflected on his challenges as a fashion designer at Yale and thought of ways to alleviate the challenges faced by thousands of emerging designers. Jill and Alain met at MIT and they discovered that they share the same passion. They were intrigued by Kickstarter as a way to support emerging designers, but fashion was the worst performing vertical at the time. They interviewed many designers and boutique buyers before deciding that Modalyst is the right business model to help promote the next generation of independent designers to internationally established brands.
For marketing strategies, Modalyst is very active on Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest. Rather than promoting themselves, they use social media to highlight their brands and boutiques. Their goal is to help these businesses grow, and hope to grow with them along the way. They also work with each party to personally cater services to their needs. They find that social media has been great for inbound interests and leads. However, Jill stated, “The high-touch process of direct personal interaction with boutiques and designers has been the most rewarding in growing our brand and business. It is important for us to incorporate their feedback into our product.
Modalyst was funded by family and friends, but they are working on getting in touch with investors. The funds would be used to hire new talent. “We believe in surrounding ourselves with the best and people should be rewarded for their work,” said Jill.
Jill sees Modalyst as the go-to marketplace for independent boutiques and emerging fashion designers in the future. They are currently working with accessories designers, but will soon expand into more categories. They are also building a community for boutiques on Modalyst. Jill stated, “Our goal is to streamline the discovery and buying process through shared resources – whether this is participating in a collective buy with another boutique, or sharing the exploratory process of discovering brands. A boutique in Austin, Boston, and San Francisco may service the same demographic and sell similar brands, but they don’t know each other. Through Modalyst, not only can they introduce each other to new brands, but also they can either reach minimum order requirements or receive wholesale discounts together.”
By Luyao Li