Member’s only fashion clubs began a few years ago touting high fashion brands and designers at low prices so that anybody could grab high end clothing for a tenth of the price, as someone who enjoys their clothing I was intrigued. The only caveat was that you only got access to all these deals if you were a member of a very “exclusive” club. When you joined this club or, as it was in the very beginning, managed to get an invite from a friend, you gave them some personal details about yourself so they knew what type of things you would be interested in. This helped them market other offers to you, but it was seen as a small price to pay for some of the offers you were getting sent to your inbox everyday. Companies like Gilt were on the forefront of this movement and capitalized on their success quickly, moving into other areas with the same model of putting deals directly into your inbox.

I signed up for Gilt as quickly as I could, as a college student with an interest in fashion I thought this might be how I could get the high end products that caught my fancy with a price tag more suited for a college student. I remember poring over the day’s deals before persuading myself that I really didn’t need that cashmere sweater too badly, or those two-hundred dollar shoes that awfully. I remember that the few times that I was actually determined to purchase something, because I thought that the deal was good enough even for somebody as frugal as me, the items would be gone by the time I got to the page. Obviously this was a symptom of the site having a very limited amount of stock, so the deals that were too good to pass up often weren’t. In the end I decided to stop the emails from coming in everyday after months of poring over them at least a few times a week.

Later, more companies popped up with a similar design but with different target audiences. Companies like Jackthreads and Frank & Oak were targeting people who wanted clothes that were trendier and younger while Frank & Oak was creating a curated marketplace for their own clothing. They both offered you discounted pricing as long as you allowed them to send you emails regularly about their products. These companies began to become a new kind of fashion retailer that did not rely on brick and mortar stores which allowed them to cut down their prices. They also allowed themselves time to scale their infrastructure properly with the idea that to start you needed to be invited to become one of their customers.

Now, nearly every brand and store has its own online store and so these places are more likely to stock smaller designers selling directly to them, or to pick up unused stock t a discount. This allows them to keep their prices down, but they are for the most part not as successful as they were at first. You no longer here as much about them because they are simply a part of the online marketplace at this point. I still peruse the emails, or go directly to the sites every once in a while but typically don’t buy much because they don’t allow me to try on the clothes and many of the brands are unknown to me which makes it harder to gauge their sizes. Frank & Oak, and other similar companies have combat this with another innovation in the fashion membership idea. Frank & Oak has a subscription service to let you try out clothing they think you would like and you send back anything you don’t. You get to test out fits and see how much you would really enjoy buying the article with no obligation and a bit more of a discount. Honestly, the only reason I haven’t signed up for their Hunt Club is because I would be afraid of what would happen to my bank account if I did.

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