Meet the founder with a passion for Fassion
This startup wants to shake up independent fashion ecommerce
It’s been an exciting week here at PreSeed Now, although I’ll hold off on sharing why for a little longer… 🤫
In the meantime, today we have a trip into the world of fashion ecommerce for you. Scroll down to read all about Fassion. While we’re all about B2B and deep tech here, we’ll sometimes consider a ‘C’ when it’s B2B2C.
As usual, PreSeed Now members get the full story, with a deeper dive into the startup, its plans, and challenges.
Yesterday was International Women’s Day and it hammered home to me that not enough startups founded by women have crossed my radar in recent weeks. Let’s change that!
Which early-stage UK female founders should we be talking to? Let me know.
Fassion wants to shake up independent fashion ecommerce
Independent fashion brands looking for a way to scale their business have an ally in Fassion. It’s a new startup that wants to be the go-to place for discovering, sharing, and buying brands that struggle to cut through on platforms like Depop or Instagram.
Co-founder and CEO Billy Butt describes the Manchester-based startup as a ‘shopping-first social marketplace’.
“We are looking to democratise the fashion industry. It sounds like a big mission. But the way we plan on doing this is by giving customers a viable alternative to fast fashion.
“And also by giving independent brands a dedicated platform to reach an audience they otherwise wouldn't be able to reach, due to competition with fast-fashion budgets, difficult supply chains, and not having the capital to actually expand.”
Feeding on fashion
Having validated their idea with a web-based MVP and pop-up shops (more on that below), they’re now on the cusp of launching an app, which will be the focus of their product efforts. The app is designed to rethink how online fashion marketplaces work, and ditch the idea of scrolling through almost endless lists of products.
Instead, they’ve taken inspiration from social media.
“As well as being able to purchase through a traditional marketplace model where you can just filter and search for products, there will also be a social feed where you can follow the independent brands you're interested in,” says Butt.
“Once you follow them on your social feed, their content will start to pop up as they post and you'll also be able to shop through that content. There are shoppable images and videos, you can tag the products, and you can shop your content, but it all stays on one platform, unlike Instagram and other social platforms when you're purchasing products. Most of the time it directs you to a different website.
“That shopping experience is really high friction, because they've got to have a similar shopping experience for multiple different products, whether it's a gardening product, a food product, or fashion product. They've got to have one simple shopping experience to cover all of that.”
While the likes of Instagram and TikTok have invested heavily in native shopping experiences in recent years, they’ve struggled to make them work. Instagram recently demoted shopping in its UI, while TikTok’s QVC-style live shopping has hit false starts as it has tried to copy the format’s success in China.
But that doesn’t mean social media-style discovery features don’t work in a retail-first environment, and that’s what Fassion is betting on.
“You go onto Instagram and see your friends or family, people at the gym, people eating out… it's just not the environment for a shopping experience. We believe we need to have a shopping experience first, and then the interaction and discovery second.”
Know your brands
The startup has a clear view of the types of brands it wants to work with.
“We like to refer to them as ‘too big for Depop but too small for ASOS’,” says Butt.
“There's this big white space where they're not just people in their room making one-off pieces of clothing and selling it on Depop. But they're also not fast-fashion brands who are outsourcing all their manufacturing to China and Turkey, all these sweatshops that create unsustainable products that can be sold for 40 or 50p on Black Friday.”
To help these brands keep on top of servicing Fassion’s users, the forthcoming app will integrate with Violet’s Unified Commerce API. This will keep inventory and fulfilment in sync with brands’ existing systems.
“It simplifies the process. It 100% removes any key onboarding barriers which we were discovering, especially with some of the larger independent brands. They have a bit more of a dedicated supply chain that they don't want to keep messing around with every time they add on a third-party platform.”
Know your customers
Fassion isn’t just about competing with fast-fashion, Butt says it’s also about weaning young consumers off unsustainable fashion products, in a realistic way.
“We can't just expect them to be able to start to afford completely sustainable products. A £300 price tag is just unaffordable and unrealistic. If we want customers to start shopping more sustainably, we need to give them accessible and affordable alternatives.
“And if those accessible and affordable alternatives aren't necessarily 100% sustainable, it doesn't matter because it's actually changing their shopping habits away from fast-fashion and giving them alternatives that they can afford.
“Once they are able to afford 100% sustainable options, their shopping habits have already changed and they're more likely to actually make that step, as opposed to expecting them to go from Boohoo to Stella McCartney just like that.”
How it started
Butt doesn’t have a background in fashion, and came to the idea for his startup from seeing his sister’s challenges in finding the right platform on which to grow her own independent brand.
He and his brother Charlie started to look into how they could develop a solution to this during the Covid lockdown period. Funded by the profits from Charlie’s street food business, they developed an MVP that launched in the summer of 2021.
A simple marketplace, it lacked the social and discovery features the forthcoming app will include, but Butt says they validated the concept. “We onboarded 80 brands with over 1,500 products. We did £40,000 in GMV during the period when the MVP was live.”
This was bolstered by pop-up shops the startup ran in Manchester and London. Butt says the most recent pop-up, in Shoreditch, took £7,000 over four days.
“It directly proves the point that people want to buy independent fashion when it's put in front of them on the high street and they walk in. But the issue is they don't know where to find it online.”
Having expanded the team with a tech lead, a head of growth, and advisors who previously worked at Depop, they’ve got to a point where Butt says they have a waitlist of 3,000 for their app, which is scheduled to launch in the coming weeks.
He says they grew the waitlist through the pop-up shops, plus parties, and with the help of student ambassadors in Manchester and London.
Investment, competition, vision, and challenges:
Going deeper on Fassion, for PreSeed Now members:
Keep reading with a 7-day free trial
Subscribe to PreSeed Now to keep reading this post and get 7 days of free access to the full post archives.