Two Manhattan-based online businesses will soon be Brooklyn-bound to open new headquarters and warehouses in Industry City. Material Wrld, which bills itself as a designer goods trade-in service, and The Line, a fashion and home decor company, have secured five-year leases for warehouse space, as well as offices, in the sprawling waterfront facility in Sunset Park.
Started three and a half years ago by Harvard Business School grads Rie Yano and Jie Zheng, Material Wrld has outgrown the 4,000-square-foot location at 838 Broadway that has been its base for the past 18 months. The company currently accepts 150 clothing brands and 30 labels for shoes and accessories. Unlike consignment shops or thrift stores, which typically pay donors once their items are sold, Material Wrld reimburses consumers with monetary gift cards for select retail partners, provided their designer trade-ins meet the criteria. The pair, whose aim to alleviate the hassle of cleaning out closets, have secured $4 million in venture capital funding, Yano said Tuesday.
Each of the founders offers an interesting take on e-commerce and fashion. Yano wrote her graduate thesis about how postwar underground Tokyo flea market was revived by in part by bars, restaurants and old shops. After earning her MBA in 2008, she returned to her home state of New York to “dive into digital at Coach,” where she was part of the team that launched flash sales for the company. Zheng’s social consciousness led her to build a talking navigation device for blind students and a refined hearing aid for the elderly as part of her senior thesis. She later worked at Ralph Lauren helping to launch e-commerce internationally and then at J. Crew. “We both had seen that there was so much going on with the shopping side of e-commerce. But we felt that cleaning out closets really continued to be a chore and a hassle for people. We thought this would be a fun way to drive customers back to shopping.” Yano said.
Their 20-person team will move into a 14,308-square-foot space next month. Together they have seen Material Wrld’s sales increase 730 percent in the past 12 months, Yano said. Relying on digital research, they try to zero in on trends and labels that accept trade-ins that is in season or slightly ahead of season. “We love New York and we definitely love being based here.” Yano said. “Being in Brooklyn, we know it will be easy to take on more space as we grow.”
This spring another innovative fashion company, The Line, leased about 11,500 square feet in a waterfront building and employees will set up shop there this fall. In addition to its e-commerce site, the company currently operates The Apartment by The Line on Greene Street in Soho, where people can buy home items — merchandised as the name suggests — and learn about the artists’ or designers’ creative processes.
In recent years, city officials have been trying to entice New York-based fashion companies and start-ups to remain within the five boroughs. The fashion industry accounts for nearly 6 percent of the city’s workforce, paying $10.9 billion in wages, and generating nearly $2 billion in tax revenue annually. New York City’s creative class continues to be a burgeoning sector and Industry City’s melding of fashion, tech, design, media and other sectors strives to create an innovative community of professionals. Industry City’s chief executive officer Andrew Kimball said, “The creative class powering the innovation economy has found a home at Industry City. Companies like Material Wrld and The Line — that exist at the intersection of technology, fashion and design — will undoubtedly find a host of collaborative opportunities within the community of diverse, yet like-minded, makers and innovators growing here.”