Brian Atwood’s new handbags and the future of Gilt Groupe

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Shoe designer extraordinaire Brian Atwood launched his first collection of handbags exclusively on on Thursday. They’re terrific looking, very 1970s Hollywood glam. The collection includes four styles -- the Carla, the Theodora, the Kate and the Iside -- priced from $1,050 to $1,850, and will be sold on the site through the summer.

Although still hosts daily, 36-hour flash sales with merchandise up to 60% off, exclusive launches like this one are a way that is distinguishing itself from the now-crowded field of bargain-hunting sites.


I had lunch with some folks from Gilt a couple of weeks ago when they were in Los Angeles to fete the Decades for Modern Vintage shoe collection, another exclusive for the site, which was designed by vintage guru Cameron Silver.

Gilt Groupe was born of the recession. When the members-only, flash sale site was founded in November 2007, it was a haute clearinghouse for excess designer goods during the height of the economic downturn.

Other sites, including HauteLook and Ideeli, quickly followed, as the flash sale site category exploded. And Gilt reinvented itself and expanded, launching sister sites such as Gilt City, Gilt Taste and Jetsetter, selling everything from discounted location-specific yoga classes to exotic tropical vacations to stone crab claws from the Florida coast.

At our lunch, I learned that the Gilt record for fastest sale is 0.2 seconds, and that was for a VW Jetta car that sold for $5,995. (Original price: $15,995.) A vintage crocodile Hermes Birkin bag was among the most expensive items ever sold, for $28,000.

Now, most of what’s being sold isn’t overstock at all. And some of it isn’t even discounted. Take Atwood’s handbag line for example.

Gilt has partnered with the Council of Fashion Designers of America and the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York to award a scholarship to graduating senior Kieran Dallison. Gilt and other industry mentors helped Dallison develop his first collection of jersey pieces, which will launch during a Gilt sale the first week of June.

Also coming up this summer? A capsule collection with Donna Karan of travel-inspired clothing and accessories.

If you want to read all about how Gilt founders (and friends first) Alexis Maybank and Alexandra Wilkis Wilson started their site, which revolutionized the way we shop and recently earned a valuation of $1 billion, you can pick up a copy of their new book, ‘By Invitation Only’ (Portfolio), which comes out April 12.


Decades designs shoes for Modern Vintage

Available now, gone in a flash

-- Booth Moore