“I had to sell my Cartier bracelet, my Jimmy Choos,” says Lexi Willetts, a former lawyer, and co-founder of Little Black Door. She made nearly £30,000 last year reselling her clothes and accessories online. “I made half that,” says her co-founder, Marina Pengilly. She couldn’t quite bring herself to part with her Chanel handbags.
It was early 2019 and the two women needed money. They had quit their jobs to start Little Black Door, a digital wardrobe inventory platform, which allows users to catalogue their closets, compile outfit combinations and sell clothes on resale sites – all online. Since then, the two founders have tested the Little Black Door app on 250 users, raised more than £350,000 from friends and family, and are getting ready for a seed round of £1.5m to launch a version for the general public at the end of this year.
The fashion sector has been hit harder than most during the Covid-19 pandemic: an update to McKinsey’s The State of Fashion 2020 report estimates a global revenue contraction of 30% year-on-year. However, the same report also predicts the industry could regain positive growth of 4% in 2021. And the intersection where fashion and technology meet, often abbreviated to “fashtech”, will be an important part of this growth.
“In some years’ time, that phrase will cease to exist because all of fashion in some way will be technology enabled,” says Anita Baldanachi, a partner at the consulting firm McKinsey & Company, who helps compile the annual report. “It will just be synonymous.” Since last year’s report, there have been three fashtech unicorns (startups valued at more than $1bn): The RealReal, Rent the Runway, and StockX. The first two businesses were started by women.
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