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Behind the Scenes at Gilt: The Hottest Name in High Fashion

Is there a bigger name in fashion today than Gilt Groupe?  We spent last week in New York to find out.  Gilt invited TheCoolist to a behind-the-scenes look at what has become the hottest trend in luxury fashion, a retailer that has grown to become the saving grace for high style in a troubling economy.  From the warehouse to the photo shoot, the model to the product, TheCoolist explored what makes Gilt Groupe tick– as we put our finger to the pulse of the brand that could very well reinvent the way you stock your closet.  Read on, as we uncover the heartbeat of a new movement in modern fashion.

It’s high noon.  Your well-dressed co-worker, your fashionable friend and their trend-setter counterparts are all heading to Gilt.com, waiting for the big sale to begin.  The fashion world’s top brands, from Native Son to Michael Kors, Tommy Hilfiger to Jack Spade, are all about to slash prices on their gear courtesy of Gilt.  If you’ve participated in the flash-mobbed speed sales where top gear sells for up to 70% off, you know precisely what we’re talking about.  If you haven’t, we’ll work to dispel the myth that makes today’s mavens of style disappear at 12:00 noon, five days a week– they’re busy engaging a three-year-old fashion startup that will break $500 million in sales this year.

If you’re here on TheCoolist, it’s likely that you not only know Gilt well, but you’re a customer.  If you’re not, allow us to catch you up to speed. Gilt works with the top names in high fashion to connect unsold stock with web-minded fashionables at discount prices.  So when Calvin Klein releases a fresh new line, they give Gilt access to the last of their stock before it runs out.  Gilt then drops it on their site at noon, ready for the first arrivals to gather up what’s left.  Needless to say, it goes quickly.

So what is the reason for their success?  Why do the fashionable and frugal consider Gilt.com to be their homepage in the world of fashion?  This is what we wanted to find out.  We spent a week in New York City to understand what makes Gilt so special.  After toying with the idea, Gilt sponsored TheCoolist and brought us to NYC to explore their operation, to meet with the editorial director of Gilt Manual and the head of their creative division at their Brooklyn warehouse.

If you didn’t know Gilt was a three-year-old operation, you’d think they’ve been doing this for decades.  Their Brooklyn-based creative division is a well-greased machine that pays mind to efficiency while focusing on the truly “creative” end of their job titles.  One day they may be shooting the latest work of Native Son on a name-brand model (see above), the next they may be working on a photo shoot for dog clothing, a Thanksgiving feast or luxury bedding products for a designer home.  Their studios are versatile in nature, in that their employees and freelancers see a new creative challenge every day, a challenge that brings out the best in their ability.

TheCoolist was invited to sit in on a photo shoot for the aforementioned Native Son.  From our perspective, we won’t be able to look at online retail at Gilt in the same way again.  Their photo shoot team consisted of seven people– two wardrobe stylists, a hair and make-up stylist, a freelance photographer, two producers and a model.  Every photo that was taken was immediately shown on a set of tethered monitors to the producers, who worked to ensure that the photo taken was as natural and perfect as can be before heading to the editing room.  That editing room consisted of ten or more imaging specialists who corrected any shortcomings in these photos without altering the nature of the product.  The process here showcases just how hard Gilt tries to make the product you see online fit you the way you had envisioned.  The product must speak for itself, and the creative team at Gilt shows each product in its best light without coloring what the product will be once you’ve tried it on your own shoulders, legs or feet.

Beyond the creative process, what can a young fashion retailer do to break $500 million in sales in their third year?  It’s all about curation, the same way that we at TheCoolist carefully collect cool content to keep you, our bread-and-butter, happy and engaged.  Gilt scouts the fashion world’s hottest labels, then works to ensure that the final stock for a specific line gets showcased in their sales.  Not only do the big names like Tommy Hilfiger and Michael Kors get featured, but Gilt reaches out to find up-and-coming designers who struggle to find footing in a troubled retail environment.  It’s about the sale– it works so that consumers can find slashed prices on lusty gear instead of paying full price at retail.  The designer brands love it, because their product finds a willing consumer and the up-and-coming brands find a new audience.  In fashion, it’s a new kind of curated democracy where the consumer drives the trend and reaps the benefits by way of a discount.

What’s most interesting is that all of this happens in a matter of minutes.  Gilt’s product hits the virtual shelves at 12:00 noon, where shoppers across the internet are waiting to get that one hot item before it runs out.  Prices are as low as 70% off what they would have paid at retail, and the result is one of the busiest moments on the web today.

During our visit to the Gilt Groupe warehouse in Brooklyn, we stood by while the 12:00 chime hit and the phones exploded in the customer service department.  The frenzy of activity was wild, but what caught our curiosity was the fact that this was unlike anything else happening in fashion today.  Right then, at just seconds after the clock hit noon, some of the most fashionable people in the world were fighting hand over fist to catch that one special shirt, shoe, suit or accessory before the next guy (or girl).  Fashion may find its greatest celebration at the peak shows in Milan, New York or Paris, but this was fashion hitting its most feverish pitch– and all driven by the demand of the discount-minded consumer.  It’s an energy that any industry would lust after in an economy where the consumer dollar is at its most scarce supply.  It’s driven by design, by careful curation, and a sense that the customer himself drives one of the most successful movements in fashion today.  In short, it’s Gilt.

TheCoolist’s own Mike Payne captures a self portrait during the Gilt photoshoot



The latest in both womens and mens fashion is available right now at Gilt Groupe, available for up to 70% off. Gilt sponsored this post and our visit to their NYC warehouse, but the perspective and commentary here remains un-colored. If you’re new to Gilt, be sure to sign up for the most lustworthy sales in fashion today.

Gilt Groupe Gallery