New online retail concept Ahalife launches today, with the potential to remake retail much as Vente-Privee did.
It is an online design lifestyle store that features one “globally curated” product every 24 hours. The items can be chosen by a celebrity or anyone in the world who is a member of the site.
Products could come from the worlds of home design, fashion, food, art, consumer electronics or charity. Prices will start at $75 and go up into the thousands.
“We feature products that are editorially interesting,” said founder Shauna Mei, who studied computer science at MIT, worked on the sale of the Neiman Marcus Group at Goldman Sachs and co-founded luxury investment firm the Aronsson Group. “We’re not trying to predict what consumers will want. They tell us what they want.”
Gilles Bensimon is creative director, while chief buyer Lou Sagar founded SoHo-based home retailer Zona.
Each member can submit an idea or a photo of an item to sell. If Ahalife likes the idea, its nine-person team will hunt it down or produce it. The item will be produced according to demand or shipped immediately if it’s something available in limited quantity.
Each item will be introduced with a story in the form of a video of the designer talking about the product and profiles of the designer and the curator.
Some of the upcoming curators and designers include Diane von Furstenberg, Iris Apfel, Tim Gunn, blogger James Andrew of What Is James Wearing, Alexis Bittar and Rachel Roy. Lauren Bush plans to create a scarf hand-dyed by women in the Congo. Buyers will receive an “aha karma” badge on their profiles.
Each member will have a profile, but only the curators’ profiles will be visible to everyone. Profiles will ask, “What was the most inspiring thing you bought recently?” A later version of the site will allow members to “follow” favorite curators and to receive notifications when an item of theirs goes up for sale. Curators are not paid.
Items will fall into daily themes. Monday is “Optimize Me,” Tuesday is “Dress Me,” Wednesday is “Nourish Me,” Thursday is “Design Me,” Friday is “Treat Me,” Saturday is “Go With Me,” and Sunday is “Enlighten Me.” Sunday’s item will be educational only and introduce members to a new idea, person or service, but will not be for sale. “Surprise Me” is a wildcard category for special or one-of-a-kind items that will show up once or twice a month.
Most of the items for sale will fall into three categories, said Mei:
•Those available only in a specific geography, such as silk earrings sold only in one kimono shop in Kyoto, Japan.
•Exclusives created with an established designer.
•Product launches that will be exclusive to Ahalife for 24 hours.
Apparel will focus mostly on outerwear, accessories and jewelry.
The company received one round of funding in March for an undisclosed sum from angel investors and FirstMark Capital.
The site is part of a bigger trend of new ways to shop online, which frequently combine elements of gaming, limited time availability, social media, crowd souring and mobile. The name refers to that “aha!” moment of inspiration, and the daily curation is meant to be inspiring and to “cut through the clutter” online.
Although the idea combines elements of stores and media sites such as Colette, Yoox, Woot, Groupon, Daily Candy, Nowness and others, Mei said she came up with idea by staring at a blank piece of paper and asking herself how she would like to shop.
“We believe the Internet is not about discount, we believe it’s a free landscape where anyone can create what they want to create,” said Mei.