On the top of the W Hotel, amidst a fabulously decked out crowd of Derek Blasberg's fans, who waited anxiously to hear him speak on his newly released book "Classy", we caught up with Alexis Maybank and immediately began offering our thanks. After all, as one of the co-founders of the immensely popular e-commerce site, Gilt Groupe, we owed Alexis our undying gratitude for the supply of exquisite designer clothes the site offers daily, at actually attainable prices.
With bright eyes and an easy laugh, Alexis jumped right into a conversation with us that seemed at once like we were talking to an old friend. Born in Charleston, South Carolina, she did both her undergraduate and graduate work at Harvard and quickly established herself on the business side of ecommerce and new media. She launched and managed Ebay Canada and later served as General Manager and Director of Business Development for AOL's ecommerce businesses. Having spent much of her professional life on the west coast, Alexis decided to move east to New York, where she indulged in the occasional designer sample sale with her friend Alexandra Wilkis Wilson. Alexandra hailed from a slightly different background than Alexis, one much more fashion-focused. With more than 12 years in the luxury goods industry, Alexandra had connections with a number of high end fashion connections from Zac Posen to Bulgari to Judith Ripka. So when the two powerhouses went shopping together on their lunch hour, it was undoubtedly a force to be reckoned with! Soon friends and family of the women were asking them to scout out pieces for them and asking their advice on purchases. And just like that, an idea occurred. Pulling from Alexandra's connections in the fashion industry and Alexis' business models, the concept of Gilt Groupe was born- an online medium of the designer sample sale, where merchandise is available at a discounted price for a limited time. Pure. Genius. The site launched officially in November of 2007, the first of its kind.
Today the site boasts an impressive 2.5 million members, has a partnership with the CFDA and has expanded exponentially in the past few years to include not only women's apparel and accessories, but menswear and childrenswear as well. Though the site does require an invitation to join the Gilt Groupe club, membership is free and well worth the wait-list, if there is one. Gilt has also inspired a slew of similar sites who offer the same concept of the online designer sample sale. When asked how she felt about this fashion ecommerce revolution in which she pioneered, Alexis just shrugged and said "Imitation is the best form of flattery!" Worried, it seems, she's not. And she shouldn't be, as the site continues to attract thousands of members and expand itself accordingly. Alexis explained, in choosing ways to diversify the site, all she has to do is listen to her customers. "They were telling us from early on that they wanted travel so we thought, let's do travel." And so Jetsetter was created, a daily deal featuring a different exotic locale from around the globe offered, just like the other goods, at a ridiculous price for a very limited time. After consulting her clientele, Alexis and Alexandra also launched the faction of Gilt Fuse, which caters to a somewhat younger demographic. And despite what we can only imagine as unimaginably busy schedules, the two dynamos just released their latest gift-a Gilt Groupe iPad application; only one, Alexis tells us, of about 35 apps currently available. She excitedly notes that it allows the user even quicker access into the daily sales with updated, more user-friendly software. We can't wait to try it.
And though we now know enough about Alexis and her fairytale business to pretty much be in awe, she hasn't changed once in her easygoing demeanor. She tells us that her husband is from Indiana so she's able to visit Chicago often, which she loves. She pointed out that Chicago has always been a strong market for Gilt and that it has really emerged as a fashion capital within the country. Especially now, with the recent notable stylings of First Lady Michelle Obama by Ikram local designers such as Maria Pinto, Alexis noted that Chicago has started to influence the overall fashion climate of other places like Washington D.C. She even shared the the rungs she was wearing were by Dana Rebecca, a Chicago-based jewelry designer that had been featured on the site. We were about to let her get back to the fabulous Chicago party but had to ask if she had any special message, just for our readers. Her answer was simple: "Become a Gilt Groupe member! There is no obligation—sign up, and you can be in on all these discounts!" And that's all she really needed to say. The rest, thanks to her, speaks for itself.
Photo Source: Second City Style