Welcome to “peer-to-peer social commerce.”

This story first appeared in the September 19, 2011 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

“It’s a new paradigm,” said Dearrick Knupp, chief executive officer of Shop My Label, a Web site launching today enabling individuals to become merchants online by building their own fashion boutiques and making a commission off the sales without requiring them to have a Web site, to possess any technical expertise, to purchase inventory or even to pay a start-up fee.

Under the Shop My Label business model, anybody over age 14 can create an online fashion boutique that’s curated from an assemblage of brands and retailers organized by Shop My Label. The boutique would be named by the person running it and viral marketed via social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, YouTube and their own blogs.

Though Shop My Label’s business model is new, it’s not unique. Another Web site called StyleOwner, which sources say has some big backers and retail experts behind it, is launching imminently as well, with a similar format.

For both, it’s all about converting those who spend a lot of time social networking or blogging into “social-preneurs” curating shops online with the brands they like, selling to people they know and trust, as if they’re personal shoppers, and making money from it. For brands and retailers, which have been grappling with how to monetize social networking and capitalize more off viral marketing, there’s potential to generate revenues and new customers.

“Everybody is talking about customer-centricity. This is what Shop My Label is really about,” explained Mortimer Singer, an investor in Shop My Label who is president of Marvin Traub Associates, which is also advising the start-up. “It’s a grassroots system to proactively evangelize your favorite brands.” Atlas Consumer Growth is another investor, while two technology firms, Optaros and Dotbox, are helping develop Shop My Label. Optaros [which worked with Rue La La] did the site architecture and wire-framing, and Dotbox has essentially taken the wire-frames to build the site.

Under the Shop My Label model, shopkeepers build their stores by selecting merchandise from 1,000 brands primarily coming from Saks Fifth Avenue, as well as 17 other brands and retailers, among them the Camuto Group, including its Jessica Simpson Collection; Jones New York brands including Nine West and Rachel Rachel Roy, and Delia’s, Alloy, DL1961, and brands from Accessory Network. Shop My Label sees adding a few more brands and retailers each week.

“We’re starting with selling fashion, but we could grow into other merchandise areas,” said Deborah Boria, Shop My Label’s president and chief creative officer. Along with Knupp and Boria, Frank Ball of Ball Group retail consultants, and Jay McElynn, formerly with Ball Group, are also co-founders. Ilan Levine, formerly with Venda Inc., Omnicon Media Group and Smart Online is chief technology officer.

Shopkeepers will pick their favorite pieces or those they think are right for those shopping their boutiques, or they could create a private boutique for an individual and customize the offering to a single customer. A shop could feature just one brand, such as Jessica Simpson, or multibrands and show outfits that are pulled from different labels. But the pricing is controlled by the retailers and brands providing the merchandise, not those creating the online shops.

Shopkeepers can also upload their pictures from Facebook and put them on their shop, and followers can send in comments.

“This has been two-and-a-half years in the making,” said Boria.

Shopkeepers will get a 5 percent commission on each sale, and incentives when they convince others to also become Shop My Label shopkeepers. Shop My Label itself will get up to 15 percent commission on revenues. “The financial model is revenue sharing — it does eat into retailers’ margins, but retailers are excited by the prospect of new customer acquisition,” said Singer.

Shop My Label will offer free shipping, single checkouts integrating different brands selected, inventory data feeds from Shop My Label’s home base in Manhattan’s Union Square at 817 Broadway, including e-mails on item availability and “a dashboard of business information that’s visualized in engaging ways,” Knupp said. The shipping and fulfillment is done by the retail and brand partners, who own the inventory.

There’s currently an SML staff of 10 at the offices: a chief technology officer and others in programming, marketing, social media outreach, wrangling brands and retailers to participate, and graphic web design. Product shots to build the shops are from the brands’ and retailers’ Web sites.

“The technology enables consumers to be their own shopkeepers, and allows them the freedom to curate their own fashion in a way they have never been able to before,” said Vince Camuto, founder and chief creative officer of the company bearing his name.

For the launch, “We are rolling it out to a very private and select list of influencers, top customers and some of our personal connections — over 500 people as potential shopkeepers. If they view Shop My Label as a hobby, they could make a $100 a month. If they really push it, there is an opportunity for much more,” said Knupp, who previously collaborated with Boria on an eco-friendly line called Panda Snack that lasted from 2005 to 2008. The two have backgrounds in branding, sourcing, design and product development.

“It’s like an eBay 2.0 if you will — creating a space — but those people needed inventory to sell that maybe came out of the garage,” Knupp said. “Here you don’t even need to obtain the product. It’s there for you to select from.”

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