Here’s how to turn an online clothing boutique into a fashion community: ModCloth, an online boutique for vintage styles, has announced the winners of its “Make the Cut: Retro Honor Roll Contest,” a collection of back-to-school styles inspired by the 1960′s, designed by community members, and chosen by the shoppers. ModCloth has always been a site that young women count on for flattering clothes when contemporary fashion isn’t working for them. Now it’s a place for emerging designers to test their skills on a very vocal audience.
The contest itself was a hit. Modcloth co-founder Susan Gregg Koger picked 25 finalists out of more than 660 original design sketches that were submitted. The voting took place on Facebook, where 4,000 potential shoppers chose a couple sheath dresses and three fit-and-flares that would make Peggy Olson proud. ModCloth will sell the dresses on the site, with custom garment tags for the winners.
From there, the designers will find out what happens when people actually buy their clothes and try them on. “A critical component of ModCloth’s success has always been our strong customer community, which is made up of very talented, intelligent and vocal women,” states Maggie Glover, head of community at ModCloth in a statement. Shoppers are generous with their reviews, offering their own measurements and even pictures of themselves wearing the outfits to give other shoppers an idea of how they look on a real person. (It also helps that ModCloth has a forgiving return policy.)
But there’s more to it than that. “Our customers not only want to give feedback on what we produce and sell, but they also want the opportunity to actively participate in the whole process, whether it be actually designing a garment, or voting on what designs they think will sell the best,” added Glover. Modcloth’s popular “Be the Buyer” program, for example, attracts thousands of votes for clothes that women want to see in stock.
They’re usually right, too. Last year’s “Make the Cut: Premiere Collection” was 40 percent sold-out on the first day alone.
To keep the momentum going, ModCloth has already launched its third competition in partnership with “Teen Vogue,” where contestants will design a “Winter Garden Gala” collection for 20-somethings and teens.