Racked is no longer publishing. Thank you to everyone who read our work over the years. The archives will remain available here; for new stories, head over to Vox.com, where our staff is covering consumer culture for The Goods by Vox. You can also see what we’re up to by signing up here.
Welcome to Ladies Who Launch, where sit down with some of Miami's tech savviest locals who are kicking ass in the fashion-tech industries and pick their brains about how they make success look so good.
Photos: Ashley Brozic for Racked Miami
When Sari Azout met Sari Bibliowicz over 20 years ago in their native Colombia, she could have never foretold that the two would launch an e-commerce idea that could disrupt the flow of fashion forever. How could it not, when even the name of their two year old company, Bib + Tuck, stands out amongst a sea of "swaps," "closets," and "trades?" Previously, their focus was on hanger transactions; sell your clothing, rake up credits, and use them to purchase items on the site sold by other users. In May, however, the company introduced the option of cashing out, although both Sari's agree that users still opt to spend their earnings buying up other things on the site, from YSL pumps to structured Zara trenches.
It's closet swapping for the 21st century and no one swaps like the Sari's. Although the two live in opposite hemispheres of the country— Sari A. runs the logistics side out of Miami, while Sari B. runs the marketing side of things in New York— they still "bib" and "tuck" from each other's highly covetable closets like they did in their Manhattan days, although that may soon be put on hold as Sari A. is a mom to be!
Closets aside, the two are no strangers to the work it takes to not only launch, but to run and innovate an existing company. With a new concept in the works that focuses on a more social, more curated and mobile shopping experience (more on that after the jump), both Sari A. and Sari B. have their steam engines rolling when it comes to Bib + Tuck, and they're eager to share their startup expertise, from why choosing the right name is the most important element of all to why starting business with a friend can actually be a good thing. Read on to learn more about these Miami-savvy influencers, from what they think of each other's style to where they like to go when they're in sunny M.I.A.
When you started Bib + Tuck two years ago, your mission was to trade clothing, not dollars. In May, however, you started allowing monetary transactions. What changed?
Sari Azout: The whole concept was that women love shopping, but they hate spending and we wanted to create an experience where women could shop without spending. That was the vision and we set out to build a solution, but we felt like the business scaled to a certain point with that initial model. We still keep many elements of that model— it can still operate as a swap because you sell something, you get credits, and you can either shop using those credits or cash out. We did that because we were starting to get a bunch of vintage collectors and designers and people who had a lot of items. In many ways, we are fostering closet entrepreneurs and we also want to build a very customer centric business, so we said our users are asking us for this option, so let's start answering them.
Sari Bibliowicz: It's just about giving the option so that you don't feel like you're tied to something. If you don't sell your jacket, you don't have to feel like 'oh my gosh, if I don't find something on the site it's going to go to waste.' You now have the option. Many people just end up using it on the site anyways because you end up using the money to buy clothes.
So half your business is run out of New York, and the other half is run out of Miami. How do you make long distance work?
Sari A: Sari [Bibliowicz] runs marketing in New York and I run operations in Miami, so technically speaking, everything related to marketing, PR and merchandising happens there and our customer service team is down here. But because Miami is so small, I've taken it upon myself to do marketing locally. We've done pop up events at Soho House; we're doing Fashion for Breakfast next month there. I've sort of become a local champion for entrepreneurship and innovation. We're trying to get the word out and really speak to the entrepreneurship community locally.
Sari B: We each handle different things so it's very easy to connect on what we need to talk about and for everything else we just handle our own thing. I come here a lot, she goes to New York a lot. We're very connected. It's not like we're running two separate businesses.
In a sea of so many resale competitors, why do you think your model works? Do you think people are starting to accept more the notion of trading clothing?
Sari A: When we started and I told my parents about this business, they were like, 'that's crazy! Who would want to wear used clothes?' When I told my grandparents about it, they were like 'that's awesome! We used to trade when we were young.' You're seeing that grandparents understand it, parents don't, and this generation completely understands it. We actually haven't run into any demand issues. I would say we're more supply constrained than we are demand constrained, so I think people are pretty comfortable buying used these days.
Sari B: And I think it's also because on our platforms you can see who it belongs to, where it's coming from, if you have mutual friends with this person. When you add that personal element to it, you can better connect and are better able to sell or buy from that person.
Sari A: And there are trends. Handbags and accessories might sell more than pants or shoes might because people are more comfortable owning a used handbag than they are shoes, but I wouldn't generalize because I've been surprised at how comfortable people are online shopping. I think the millennial audience is reacting to this consumerist culture where everything is new and completely over priced, and then there's fast fashion which goes in crazy cycles. So I think this notion of recycling is very appealing to millennials who are sort of being rebels in many ways because they're not satisfied with what fashion and shopping have become.
What's one thing you've learned doesn't work for the online resale industry?
Sari A: I think we've learned that it's better to build a very meaningful relationship with a niche audience than to try and appeal to everybody. When we first launched, we had no rules on what people could list, but as we grew we realized that we had about 4,000 Forever 21 pieces up on the site and very few of those were selling because if you buy a top that's $15, the resale value might be $6 or $7 and then with shipping it comes out to be $12. It's not justified. So we created different rules with our guiding principal being to create a highly curated platform. So, I guess, curation is the biggest mission in this industry.
What other names were you considering for the company?
Sari A: I don't think we considered anything else. We came up with this idea, we didn't even think of names, and then we came up with Bib + Tuck. We registered the domain that night, and that's when we went running with it. I think having a name is very symbolic.
Sari B: It's sort of like when someone has a baby; and you put a name on it and it becomes a real thing. It became a real baby, because that's what it is to us.
Working with friends has to be tough sometimes. What advice to you have for others who are trying to make the same thing work?
Sari A: I wouldn't start this business with just anybody. We sort of just saw eye to eye on something we both wanted to build. The one thing I would tell somebody is to find a co-finder to not do it on your own.
Sari B: And we have different strengths. We've never had an issue with that. I do have a lot of friends who have started businesses with their friends that didn't work, but if you have that initial feeling that you're on the same page and you have different strengths and you're going down the same path, it works really well. And I also think respect is very important.
Sari A: Yeah, like when she disagrees with me, I think that's great. I want somebody to contest what I think, to convince me otherwise. Some people are very self righteous and that's a problem.
How would you describe each other's style?
Sari B: I would say that Sari [Azout] is very daring with her style picks. She'll wear crazy outfits but is also very much a strawberry fields girl, very bohemian. She'll wear a lot of bell bottom jeans, that kind of style.
Sari A: Sari [Bibliowicz] is, like, a minimalist. She invests in quality pieces. She'll have the best leather jacket or combat boots, and looks amazing in a white t-shirt, black jeans and a pair of Nike high-tops.
Sari B: I like being comfortable, and I think [Sari Azout] has become more comfortable too. She used to wear heels around New York, which is not something I could do.
Sari A: My wardrobe has transitioned into a lot of sneakers.
What's one thing you wish you could tuck from each other's closets?
Sari B: I feel like we've already shared so many things that there's nothing I would want that I wouldn't have.
Sari A: I want that Marcus Lupfer lip sweater!
Sari B: Really? You can have it!
Sari A: I told her she could have the shirt she's wearing today.It's by Carla Fernandez, an up-and-coming Latin American artist. She gave me this shirt recently.
So basically, you've already tucked what you've always wanted from each other's closets.
Sari A: The thing is that she comes to Miami a lot, and I go to New York a lot. So when I go to New York I stay at her place and intentionally take a pair of jeans and that's it.
Sari B: So we're always borrowing from each other.
What's next for the Bib + Tuck brand?
Sari A: We're actually working on introducing an enhanced, personal feed where you can follow brands and people. We're going to center the experience around your feed. So if you're following Theory, you can get notified when there's a new leather jacket in theory. It's going to be very much personalized to your taste. We're working on releasing that soon.
Sari B: And even you can follow people. So if you like they're style and they're your size, you can follow them…
Sari A:… and you'll see what they're posting and what they're liking. So we're basing this off of social platforms like Instagram and saying what if we could take elements of that and combine them with shopping and really build a shopping experience that is fundamentally social?
If you hadn't founded Bib + Tuck, what do you think you'd be doing?
Sari A: I think I would be starting a company, but I don't know if it would be necessarily in fashion. I like that I'm doing Bib + Tuck because I think were doing something meaningful in the context of fashion and sort of just disrupting sort of what fashion means, but I'd probably be starting some sort of digital company.
Sari B: I wouldn't be in the fashion industry if it wasn't for this. I studied hospitality, and I really love health and nutrition, so maybe something in between.
Sari B., you grew up here in Miami. What you think about this city when you come back to visit?
Sari B: It's very different. I was here in high school and lived in Aventura, so I lived in that world. I would go to South Beach, which was very cheesy, not really what Miami is anymore. Coming back older, you're able to explore new areas. Now there's such great restaurants, and the Design District! I think living here as a young kid is great and then leaving for that in between age, like early 20s, and then coming back later 20s, 30s, it's a great place to live.
Sari A: It's very culturally rich. I went to PAMM for the first time recently. It was phenomenal. I went to Wynwood a few weeks ago and it reminds me of the lower east side 20 years ago. I think Miami is changing so fast.
Sari B: It's just a great place to visit. You know, the slow pace compared to New York is so refreshing. The people are happier. It's just a very refreshing place to be verses living in New York with the hustle and bustle and everyone running around.
And now ladies, a little fire round.
Tequila or vodka?
Sari A: Tea!
Sari B: Tequila.
Lace or leather?
Sari A: Leather.
Sari B: Hmm..
Sari A: It's funny because you would wear, like, a lace wedding dress with a leather jacket.
Sari B: Yeah! I can't choose. Depends on the time of year.
Heels or flats?
Sari A: Heels.
Sari B: Flats.
Favorite neighborhood in Miami?
Sari A: I love Purdy Avenue.
Sari B: The Design District.
Most coveted brand at the moment?
Sari A: Isabel Marant
Sari B: Jonathan Simkhai, but I love Phillip Lim too.
If you were a dog breed, what dog breed would you be?
Sari A: A golden retriever.
Sari B: Hmm… I'm actually not a dog person…
Sari A: I think you'd be a bulldog.
Sari B: Ok, yeah, I'd be a bulldog. A French one!
· Bib + Tuck [Official Site]
· A Complete Guide to Every Online Resale Site Worth Knowing [Racked]
· Ladies Who Launch [Racked Miami]