Is there a quality chasm in fashion startups?

Giff Constable technology

There are a number of startups in the broader “fashion” category getting funded with versions of a subscription model.  At first glance, these things seem pretty cool — pay an affordable, regular amount and you get sent something nice each month, ideally somewhat personalized to your tastes. Send it back if you hate it! A consistent trend is also to get a celebrity sponsor as well — JewelMint has Kate Bosworth, ShoeDazzle has Kim Kardashian, Send the Trend has Christian Siriano. I wonder who BaubleBar will choose?

What gives me pause is that I keep on hearing concerns about “junky” product quality. Low prices and cute looks can generate marvelous initial enthusiasm, but it is hard to maintain that momentum without really solid quality, unless you specifically want to be considered a low-end player or are shooting for a very young audience.

Along the same lines, I was at a parent event at my daughter’s school in Westchester, which is a fairly affluent area, and asked a bunch of moms whether they were using sample sale sites.  By now, they had all heard of Gilt Group, but their enthusiasm had very much dampened. The general answer was “I don’t use Gilt anymore because I had a bad experience with quality . They sell outlet-level goods.” — with a lot of nodding of heads.

That is a *huge* difference from what I was hearing a year ago, even though New York Magazine had written a big article on how brands were creating a second class of goods for the sample sale sites.

All of this is solely anecdotal, and I bet the companies would take issue with being accused of low quality, but it brings up questions about sustainability of growth and brand.