Since the launch of Gilt Groupe three years ago, its curated selection of fashion and accessories, categorized by women, men, children, and home decor, caught some attention as an "invitation-only" online shopping experience. Part of the allure to become a member was the price, fashions for as much as 70 percent off.
Last August, Gilt Groupe temporarily suspended the "invitation-only" equation for people who happened to pick up the iPad application. The interface makes online shopping experiences and almost every other iPad shopping application feel obsolete.
The interface is simple. Click on women, men, home, or children and the home category page features a collection of topic headers like Active Outerwear; Bags, Belts, Wallets; and For Lounging. Scroll down and the categories expand to include brands like Cohesive & Co., Hanro, Yoko Devereaux under men and Ella Tein, Vincent Longo, and Vanessa Noel under women.
Shopping is also made easy because they show the front, back, and use iPad technology to allow for zooming and full screen views. Anything can be added to the cart by dragging it over and dropping it in the basket.
The Selection Is Solid; The Prices Are Perfect.
The prices will certainly help you save a few bucks. An Ella Moss cora racerback dress that retails for $160 was offered for $79. A John Varvatos leather jacket priced at $1,995 was offered at $628. In the home section, an inspired black and white photograph of a flower from Art Addiction valued at up to $640 was on sale for as little as $185. A Panasonic camcorder retailing for $199 was listed for $120.
You probably won't see these sales if you download the app. Most sales on Gilt are only available for 36 hours. Items are also limited by quantity, which means waiting to make a purchase might mean seeing a sold out notification pop up before you buy.
Overall, there are two ways to look at the experience: consumerism run amok (because of the artificial demand) or smart value shopping because the name brands are put well within reach. For me, it's the latter.
It might be especially useful for finding a gift and surprising someone by making it look like you exceeded any set holiday budget. This is probably why Gilt will make the cut on several top five holiday app lists in the weeks ahead.
About The Gilt Groupe Founders.
Developed by longtime friends Alexis Maybank (formerly eBay) and Alexandra Wikis Wilson (Bulgari and Louis Vuitton) three years ago, Gilt Groupe borrows from both women's strengths — a fresh way to make shopping an experience and a better-than-average understanding of what constitutes fashion. They don't sell everything they can because they can.
They also do a fine job mixing member-selected sales versus curated buyer picks, whereas most companies overemphasize one or the other. Their own fashion magazine, Gilt Manual, follows a similar tone.
For example, when writer Tyler Thoreson answered a question related to whether flat-front pants should be cuffed or not, he wrote up the rule (never cuff flat-front pants) as well as the exception, created by the tailor's addition of a slight break. Smart.
Less smart was the advice on how to propose, skewing toward the more hapless grooms-to-be with silly advice to stay away from proposing anywhere near water or ring-laced edibles. If she's clueless enough to eat the ring, you might rethink the proposal. And if you drop the ring while standing on the bridge, chalk it up as a sign from above.
Gilt On The iPad Shops A 7.6 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale.
Overall, I like to think I have a pretty sensible head when it comes to fashion on a limited budget (I buy a small number of higher end items as opposed to a duffle full of crap). But as much as I like finding the right things, I also hate shopping.
Gilt takes some of the pain away because I browse for purchases and ideas quickly. It shortens the shopping time, even if I do visit a store in person to get a feel for the products and prices. So when I do go out, I already know what to look for.
Gilt for the iPad is available on iTunes. There are also two variations for the iPhone. One for fashion (Gilt on the Go) and one for in-city entertainment deals (Gilt City).
All of the applications are free, but what is less understood is how long you can keep the limited membership and/or what happens after the introduction is over. The ratings are also skewed lower, mostly because the initial app crashed frequently. That doesn't seem to be a problem right before the holidays.