On the website and the new iOs app, taste-makers and budding fashionistas can mix and match outfit ideas, browse items by theme or clothing type (for instance, “yellow sweaters” or “winter hues”) and purchase items from mainstream brands like H&M or Tory Burch. The site doesn’t scrape the Internet for content — users are in control. They import over 2 million items per month.
The most prolific users are creating “sets” of up to 50 items, and sharing them with the site’s community. For these super users, there are meetup events all over the country (Jess Lee, Polyvore’s cofounder, told me that they frequently form fast friendships) and cool contests to win prizes like a trip to New York for Fashion’s Night Out.
“This is our opportunity to democratize fashion,” said Lee, a fashionista and former Google employee who joined Polyvore after playing around with the beta, and getting totally hooked.
The secret sauce is the back-end where algorithms can quickly determine the sets and individual products that are trending, and will push them to the top of the search rankings. Dedicated users will find that the experience is tailored to them — over time, the algorithm gets smarter about users’ taste.
On the new iPhone app, users can create and publish fashion-sets on the go, and search for specific items. Pasha Sadri said that in the long-term, they may even include image recognition — theoretically, a user could snap a photo of a stranger’s boots on the subway, and the site would scan its database to pull up the exact item or its closest match.
The company makes money through advertising and by taking a cut of the sale when a user purchases an item they discovered on the site. The average basket-size is high at $220. In future, they plan to explore ways to mine their backlog of user-generated data to offer advanced analytics, and highly-targeted advertising.
Polyvore is sticking with ladies’ apparel for now, but will cater to men and kids, and expand its database to include home-ware.