Wardroba, Interview with CEO Fulvio Catalano

Fulvio 1Incubated in Politecnico di Milano’s Polihub, Wardroba is a social commerce platform for fashion lovers and talent designers. Fulvio Catalano, the CEO, answered our questions about himself, the project, the market, the funding needs, future plans, etc.

FinSMEs: Hi Fulvio, can you tell us a bit more about you?
Fulvio: Hi Ermanno, my name is Fulvio Catalano, co-founder and CEO of Wardroba. I am an engineer moved to Milan area in the 2006 to work as Commercial Customer Support Manager. This gave me the possibility to learn a lot about sales, logistics and customer experience. As a first idea of Wardroba was born in 2009, but with no experience in entrepreneurship, in 2011 I decided to attend an MBA course at MIP BUsiness School of Politecnico di Milano, where I met other two engineers, Federico Della Bella and Luca Nardone, with whom we shared the passion for digital innovation and so started to design Wardroba.

FinSMEs: Let’s speak about Wardroba. What’s the problem do you want to solve and market to disrupt?
Fulvio: Wardroba is a Fashion Social Commerce with a selection of emerging, edgy, memorable brands and designers. In Wardroba we replicated the typical unique seeker’s buying experience: users get ispiration from the community, search for new creations, create outfits, save the wishlist in the digital wardrobe, and buy from new talented brands. There are many new brands and designers in the worldwide scenario with high designing and creative skills. They are capable to create innovative products in the highest quality at fair prices, striclty related to the quality of the materials and of the production processes (most of them are handmade) and not to the brand name. Customers so pay for the quality, not for the brand only.
The value proposition of Wardroba is based on on the fact that emerging brands don’t have an easy access to digital economies. E-commerce, digital marketing, logistics, and customer care require large resources and significant upfront investments. Large e-commerce platforms don’t offer a solution, as they are dominated by economies of scale and big brands. In-house e-commerce solutions are expensive and time consuming.
Nowadays, where social networks and e-commerce are strictly connected we offer them at no fixed costs (and zero risks), but only a commision on sales, a complete solution to sell their collections:
– A store in a Fashion Social Commerce platform, with social network functionalities
– Marketing and Social Media campaigns through our channels
– Management of sales, logistics and customer support services, and
– International B2b distribution using the digital channel and the store on Wardroba as an online show-room.

In Wardroba new brands can be focused on design and production of their collection, we do all the rest.

FinSMEs: Can you tell us a bit more about the platform? How does it work?
Fulvio: Wardroba platform is formed by a website (with a web responsive design) and by an application for iOS mobile devices (and soon for Android devices). We have internally designed and developed the UX, the Database structure and the web services integration, outsourcing modular code development.
The user experience is centered on the digital closet. Both users and brands have a profile and interact on the platform like in a social network.
Users can browse to find items, other users and brands. They can upload photo of their own items or just save them from the other users and brands, create outfits to try new sets and buy brands’ collections. The shopipng experience is totally inside Wardroba (no forward to external websites): users can add items from different brands to the cart and complete the payment (Wardroba is intergrated to Braintree secure payments services). All posts can be also shared on Facebook and soon on the other social networks.
Brands are selected by us, mainly Made in Italy in this phase, but we have recently opened selections also in the other countries. As mentioned, they are free from any digital action as we create the store on Wardroba and upload items (background removed to allow the creation of outfits by users) of the catalogue. Once an item is sold, the brand automatically receives our order and the schedule to pick the item through our courier. The only task in charge to the brand is to give the item to our courier during the pickup.
In parallel, to advertise brands and the social shopping experience on Wardroba we use the digital Ads (Facebook Ads, Google Adwords) and our social media channels to talk about our brands and their stories.

FinSMEs: What about the team?
Fulvio: The team was formed since the beginning of Wardroba in a strongly and exciting collaborative mood. The core team is made of the three co-founders I already presented you and three software engineers, recently gratuated at Politecnico di Milano University, who joined Wardroba since the beginning and gave a big contribute to create the digital platform: Riccardo Lazzati, Nicola Casamassima and Jacopo Gasparetti. They are also minority shareholders.
Even if we discuss and agree together about strategic decisions, the roles are:

Fulvio Catalano is the CEO; he takes care of the front end design, the selection and management of brands, business development and marketing.
Federico Della Bella is the CFOO and CMO; he is in charge with business planning, fund raising, strategy and marketing.
Luca Nardone is the CTO; he is in charge with the whole IT development.
Nicola Casamassima – IT development
Jacopo Gasparetti – IT development
Rizzardo Lazzati – IT development
We have partnerships with external collaborators for other activities:

Social Media Manager – for communication campaigns on our social media
Fashion Manager – for scouting of new brands and international dsitribution
We are also incubated in Polihub, the Startup District of Politecnico di Milano and associated to Assolombarda.

FinSMEs: Where are you in terms of growth?
Fulvio: After a initial period of testing of the platform with Italian users, we recently launched the mobile App and opened the e-commerce to the international market. This is giving us high visibility and appreciation from the international users, more attracted by the Made in Italy and new brands in general. Here some numbers:

Registered users: 5.500
Unique visitors (month): 12.000
Brands online: 55
Facebook fans: 13.000
Instagram followers: 10.000
As the international program has been launched recently, revenue metrics are still under monitoring. We are seeing a positive trend from the market and are confident to reach our expectations in the next months. Nobody of the team takes any salary at the moment.

FinSMEs: Has Wardroba raised some pre seed money? Are you seeking new funds?
Fulvio: Before to reply I would highlight a condition of which we are proud. For the entire project, the website, the iOS app and the social media campaign we have totally spent about 25.000 euro. This was due as we developed the entire project internally, saving costs of development and (probably) taking the proper decisions to go ahead without high expenses. Beyond our funding, we have raised a first seed of 50.000 euro in the 2014 from the FFF network. Now we launched another round from a minimum of 100.000 euro (we can talk about a “minimum” value thanks to our very low costs to develop the business) to a maximum of 400.000 euro. We have already some investors who confirmed their partecipation to the new round and we are looking for other investors who want to join our venture.

FinSMEs: What are your next targets?
Fulvio: we have many ideas and different options to develop Wardroba in the next months, to give more social integration and to facilitate the growth hacking. As engineers, we like to plan topics and opportunities to be evaluated and for that we have a clear idea of what to do in the next year. Currenlty we are working on some improvements for sales, as the data feed that we have already developed and that are going to integrate in other online systems (i.e., Google Shopping).
Surely, next steps will be to enlarge the brands community to the other countries, focusing on brands with high quality products, to expand the b2b channel towards the digital show-room idea and to improve the user experience, web and mobile, to enrich the social shopping experience on mobile devices. Our scope is to confirm Wardroba as the Social Hub for new fashion brands.



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