NEW YORK — The melding of commerce and content is never easy, but it becomes harder when targeting consumers who aren’t exactly digital natives.
But that is the demographic that Cindy Weber Cleary sees as the most in need of her help when it comes to fashion. With more than three decades of experience as a fashion editor, Weber Cleary, who serves as InStyle’s special projects editor, sought to create a Web site that pairs e-commerce and service fashion journalism.
As a result, she launched Apprécier with former Coach executive vice president of global marketing Stephanie Stahl late last year in beta. The site, whose name means to appreciate, to enjoy, and to grow in value over time in French, is making its debut today. The duo aims to fill a “void,” but when pressed, they hesitated before selecting their words.
“We definitely don’t want this [site] to be about age,” Weber Cleary said. “You know those stories: Dressing for the decade? Dressing for your 30s, dressing for your 40s. Those are just made-up stories. You just want your style to evolve with you.”
The editor noted that options for fashion aimed at older women are nonexistent, and tend to be very “conservative.”
Although Apprécier doesn’t like to be branded a fashion site focusing on women of a certain age, it does serve women who are looking to evolve their style as they age.
“Our mission is to make shopping fun again,” added Stahl, who realized the company’s mission statement had echoes of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign slogan. “We came up with our mission before he came on the scene.”
Stahl, who is the operational guru behind the business, said their shoppers are among the wealthiest and biggest consumers of luxury goods. She added that even though retailers are chasing Millennials, they aren’t the ones spending money.
The executive explained that there’s an implicit ageism, as most retailers look to market to younger shoppers because they don’t want to appear to be “an old brand.” Enter Apprécier, which looks to be a sort of marketplace for brands catering to more mature clients.
Apprécier uses an affiliate marketing model and has more than 600 brands on its site from more than 200 retailers. They include Tory Burch, Bandier, Anthropologie, Vince, Barneys New York Private Label, La Garçonne, Kirna Zabête and Otte. Stahl said the next step is to move to a marketplace model with a universal checkout. They would not carry inventory. She cited FarFetch and Orchard Mile as an example of a business model they hope to emulate.
Right now, Apprécier generates revenue through royalties, but it looks to sell advertising on its editorial content, which would supplement commissions derived from the marketplace. The company would not comment on its current financials, but it did note that almost half of the site’s visitors have engaged in commerce. The executive underscored that Apprécier is “retail-first and mobile-first” site that happens to have editorial content.
As for where the line between edit and commerce begins and ends, Weber Cleary offered that she has no problem featuring clothing in her stories that is not sold on the site. She added that she isn’t beholden to showcasing advertisers’ products on Apprécier.com either.
Thus far, the site’s content has taken the form of style guides, essays and interviews with tastemakers and lesser-known stylish people. Apprécier will unveil an interview with Arianna Huffington today. Other interviews have included Norma Kamali, Veronica Webb and Cornelia Guest. Weber Cleary said her “dream interviews” would be Iman and Julianne Moore.
The site is looking for investors and said it is in conversations with series C funding angles.
“We’re building a brand,” offered Apprécier investor and president of Seven Global Jason Weisenfeld, who introduced Weber Cleary to Stahl. “This isn’t something where we sat around a table and said ‘we want to start a Web site. Where is the white space?’ It came first to Cindy and then to Stephanie through experiencing it. We realized this [problem] exists.”