Fashionology has moved its tween fashion-craft-party concept online, making its Web store one of the more unusual launches in cyberspace and at an unlikely time, given the economy.

This story first appeared in the March 5, 2009 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

When the retailer opened its first store in Beverly Hills last June, the company’s Web site (at the time, a nontransactional one) was deluged with e-mails from girls as far away as India and Australia eager to know when a store would open near them.

“We thought the best way to reach the most amount of tween girls who want to design and make their own clothes was online,” said co-founder Elizabeth Wiatt, a former editor at Marie Claire who, along with co-founder Jamie Tisch, is the mother of tween girls. “Of course we wanted to be online. I don’t think you can be a modern retailer and not have a presence online.”

Girls select an item of clothing such as a sweatshirt or skirt to embellish with iron-on transfers, charms, sparkles and jewelry. The online experience is similar to the in-store kiosks, with five fashion “moods” to choose from and an animated program that makes designing into a game.

At the store, the resident “fashionologist” prints the girl’s design plan. The girl adds finishing touches such as charms.

Online, a girl can save her creation and show it to others on the site or via e-mail. If she (or, more likely, her parent) buys it online, staff at the store print the design plan, iron on the graphics, and package the accessories the girl will need to complete the creation at home.

Online, girls can see each others’ profiles, designs and rooms, and post messages and comments through the blog. At the store, a girl can book a two-hour party with a fashionologist and games starting at $60 a person.

This week the site added partly finished garments that parents can order for slumber parties at home. Coming soon is a gift card tweens can use to make purchases online.

A tank top is $16.50, sweatshirts are $42, and charms start at $2.

Last week, Fashionology publicized the online store with a cross-promotion with Disney and the Jonas Brothers. Since the store opened two weeks ago, thousands of girls have registered online.

Big Buddha Baba of Los Angeles helped design the store, which is run and hosted by Fashionology. The retailer employs seven people and plans to expand, perhaps by opening flagships or licensed stores in other cities, but has not yet settled on specifics. Each season it updates the designs based on feedback from girls.

Like all retailers, Fashionology has felt the economic downturn, said Wiatt, who declined to disclose revenues. On some weekends as many as six parties are booked per day. Tween celebrities such as Sabrina Bryan of The Cheetah Girls have made appearances, and Teri Hatcher has stopped by with her daughter.

“These innovative hybrids of retail and entertainment are what keep retail fresh and cause your audience to cross over on your threshold whether virtual or real,” said Wiatt.