FASHION500 SET FOR NET
Byline: Valerie Seckler
NEW YORK — There will be life online for Fashion500.com.
The upscale e-commerce portal that’s been two years in the making is poised to go live on Oct. 16, Michael Bereck, chairman and chief executive officer of the nascent Net project told WWD Tuesday.
“Our priority has never been to be first online in the luxury market,” said Bereck, a former financial and technology consultant who formed Fashion500 in January 1999.
“We want to offer the top-rated experience in the upscale space,” he added, during a tour of the company’s digital photo studio at 251 Park Avenue South.
A password-protected version of Fashion500.com is slated to go online, Bereck said, in “the next few days,” so that a final check can be run on operations such as order fulfillment and returns.
In a related development, Bereck revealed Tuesday that Fashion500 is in talks to produce a fashion lifestyle TV show, tentatively called Fashion500 TV. While the program as currently envisioned will not offer commerce akin to home shopping channels like HSN and QVC, it will promote the Fashion500 Web site via ad teasers that use the destination’s online address. And in a fresh marketing twist, the company has just registered the url, Fashion500.tv — a domain name suffix that’s newly available — to help convey the multimedia aspect of its upscale offer.
“We’ve been approached by an Emmy-award winning team of TV producers,” Bereck said. “We’ll probably [air] the program during the first or second quarter of 2001. First, we have to hammer out an agreement, get the Web site launched, insure our deliveries are going OK.”
Asked whether the designers and manufacturers affiliated with Fashion500 are getting restless waiting for the Web site to open, Bereck said the company’s insistence on “getting it right,” rather than rushing online, has been a “source of encouragement” to those partners.
“As they’ve seen our baby steps, they’ve been encouraged, since it has taken so long to get the site up and going,” Bereck added.
Those steps include the development of a third-party division that will offer a wide variety of services to upscale branded businesses, such as designing and building their Web sites and handling their digital photography needs.
Plus, Fashion500.com still intends to offer business-to-business links, at fashion500.com, for its own affiliates.
“If a brand is available in Saks, Neiman’s, Barneys New York, Bergdorf Goodman, or in certain settings — Madison Avenue, 57th Street — then its [supplier] could get an e-tail shop on Fashion500 as well as mount its own independent site linked to Fashion500 for business-to-business purposes,” Bereck explained. “We are not just a Web site. We are an e-commerce solutions company. We’re building dozens of Web sites, versus one Web site, which we could have done 100 times already.”
Currently, Fashion500.com plans to go live with 17 e-boutiques and already has launched marketing-driven Web sites for eight of those players: philosophy by Alberta Ferretti, at philosophy.albertaferretti.com; MaryMcFadden, at marymcfaddencouture.com/preview/; Burma Bibas, at burmabibas.com; Fernando Sanchez, at fernandosanchezltd.com; Barry Bricken, at barrybricken.com; Carmen Marc Valvo, at carmenmarcvalvo.com; White + Warren, at whiteandwarren.com/preview/; and Temple St. Clair Carr, at templestclaircarrr.com. Betsey Johnson’s marketing-driven Web site is slated to go live next week.
Those Web sites, along with the nine other e-boutiques set to bow at Fashion500, will add the e-commerce component when they go live at Fashion500, later this month. Each of those destinations will be accessible via Fashion500.com, or through its own url.
Bereck said another 20 e-boutiques are slated to open at Fashion500 during the fourth quarter.
All this is in store, Bereck said, despite the fact that Fashion500 has not obtained the $10 million to $15 million in venture capital it was searching for this summer. In August, Stephen Elkin, former ceo of Fashion 500, said the fresh funds were being sought to augment an initial investment of $5 million in the company, which had been made by various individuals.
“I come from a finance background, with 12 years on Wall Street,” Bereck noted. “So far, I’ve done all the financing from my personal contacts and so forth. If someone comes along and wants to contribute funds under our terms, fine.
“It’s not easy,” he acknowledged, “but we will continue to do it the way we have, with high-net-worth individuals.
“There is zero chance,” Bereck added, “that we won’t launch.”