TagPop, a new start-up hoping to revolutionize the way we shop for vintage by hiring stylists to do the hard work for you. The concept is simple: customers can request generalized items like a pair of light-wash kick flare jeans or a corduroy jacket, TagPop processes your request, automatically searching your Facebook “likes” and interests to get a sense of your taste, where stylists then sift through hundreds of vintage pieces to find the perfect match. What you actually receive is a lucky-dip. And if you don’t like it, you can return it indefinitely until they get it right.
TagPop’s objective is to take the hassle out of vintage shopping (no more sorting through racks of musty-smelling clothes!) and in turn, reduce clothing waste by 2 million tons in the next five years. Currently, Americans only recycle or donate 15 percent of their used clothing, and the rest—about 10.5 million tons a year—goes into landfills.
“There are a lot of used goods with a lot of potential to be worn by American people for an incredible discount, as opposed to being shredded to put into a cushion factory or put into a land fill,” says Luciani, who started out selling vintage neckties on eBay in the late 2000s.
“Over the past eight years I have realized what a problem the tremendous consumption of clothing is, and what happens to all of that. The consumption isn’t really the bad thing, it is just what to do with it all. Millennials spend the majority of their shopping time online, and are cause driven. To make a huge dent, we just need to change behavior in how we purchase fashion and how we recirculate our clothing,” explains Luciani, adding that any surplus clothing TagPop doesn’t use will be matched back to charities in need: work clothes for the Bowery Mission and children’s clothing for Style Save, for example.
“Millennials spend the majority of their shopping time online, and are cause driven. To make a huge dent, we need to change behavior in how we purchase fashion and how we recirculate our clothing.”
TagPop’s prices range from $5 to $75 for each mystery item of clothing, depending on their “tier” (premium pieces are launching on the site Nov. 1). After I requested a selection of smart-casual clothes, like stylish wool trousers, a casual fall jacket, jeans, and a more formal blazer for work, I received two pairs of Levi’s jeans (one of them being a rare 517 style I specifically requested, and the other pair was actually brand new, tags still attached), one pair of tweed pants, three T-shirts, one corduroy jacket and one premium herringbone jacket for a total of $250. I only returned the latter because the style wasn’t very “me”.
To ensure a customer receives pieces that match their individual style sensibilities, TagPop’s team of stylists (a mix of fashion students and style-conscious staff) dissect a customer’s order request while an automated program scans their public profiles online. “The most important pieces of data we get from you are your actual requests on the notes of your order,” explains Lucian, adding: “When it comes to your data, we have Facebook, Instagram and Google data—as much as you have released about yourself. We use that data to look at your interests; for example it could be a particular sports team you’re into or the college you went to—that can pertain to the kind of cool vintage T-shirt we send you.” And if you return items, the company takes note of what you don’t like, learning your taste over time.
The customer has to pay for shipping and returns, “but we give them unlimited chances to send their product back until it’s the perfect match,” says Luciani. “We think that our extremely low price point makes it worth people’s while.”
TagPop is also in the process of working with up-and-coming designers who aren’t yet big enough for Gilt or The Outnet, but who need somewhere to liquidate seasons-old products. “We’re not just working with second hand clothes, we’re also a channel by which young brands, who are doing something good for the environment, can liquidate their clothes,” explains Luciani. “Our system has the ability to buy these products from these companies and liquidate their excess inventory and give a great deal to the consumer without tarnishing their brand, because we’re not selling it as their brand. We’re selling mystery items.”
Ultimately, selling vintage Levi’s for a quarter of the price of other, premium vintage denim brands like The Vintage Twin, is where TagPop hopes to see a large amount of its growth, second only to its premium vintage T-shirts (TagPop sells 5,000 T-shirts per month, which is estimated to grow to 20,000 per month by the end of the year and to 1 million T-shirts by 2018—this will reduce waste by 6 million pounds every month, says Lihn). However, Luciani is aware that there will always be a market for people who want to try things on.
“Buying a pair of second hand jeans in SoHo for $200, you are paying for the opportunity to try everything on. But if you want great value and the same fantastic product, then you’re going to go to TagPop.”