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Can a Members-Only App Solve Luxury Fashion's Inventory Problem?

It may not be a chicest thing to talk about, but, like anyone putting out product this day and age, luxury fashion brands have to deal with excess inventory. The challenge of managing and getting rid of overstock can be thornier in these upper echelons of the industry, as they navigate the offloading while maintaining an allure of exclusivity. The founders of Mile, a new online platform with an impressive list of initial investors, believe they’ve finally solved this problem.

For many years, outlets and sample sales were the IRL default solution; then, sites like The Outnet, which sells past and in-season designer pieces at a reduced price, emerged, bolstered by the cachet of being backed by a respected industry player. Mile, which launched Wednesday, positions itself as a happy medium: The tiered subscription app offers curated merchandise from brands like Gucci, JW Anderson, Prada, Balenciaga and Brunello Cucinelli, some at full-price, but most at up to a 90% retail markdown — which you can only access if you receive an invitation to join. 

“[Our goal] was to build something that really revolutionized the inventory position in luxury fashion while seeing how we could keep it exclusive, keep the experience great and build something that’s exciting for both customers and brands themselves,” Co-Founder Joe Wilkinson tells Fashionista.

Mile comes from the team behind Heat, a platform aimed at Gen-Z consumers that launched in late 2019 and offered mystery boxes featuring a curated mix of excess stock from designer brands. According to Wilkinson, it saw an opportunity to “really innovate and move forward this off-price inventory space in luxury.” While the business gained traction fast, it was limited in terms of brand selection, and found itself confined to streetwear.

Photo: Courtesy of Mile

Mile works with designers a few different ways: It buys inventory from them, consigns its stock or operates as a marketplace for them. This not only creates unique, direct collaboration between the two, but it also encourages these brands to make rare supply sources readily available, adding a level of mystery to what shoppers can find on the app. 

“There’s everything from runway pieces to exclusive capsules that never launched. You can find couture pieces, runway pieces, archival pieces and carry-over styles,” Wilkinson says. “Some of the best stuff is not actually the products that are in the stores at the moment, but stuff that was three or 10 seasons ago. The variety allows us to be free in terms of what we’re choosing, what we’re curating and what a customer can expect.”

“There are some really cool collab pieces from four to six years ago – some of which were even unreleased — which I think will be really interesting to people,” adds Head of Creative Jordan Grant.

The members-only model maintains a level of exclusivity for both brands and consumers — for the former to “sell at the price point they want to sell” rather than forcing them to enter a “discount battle against other platforms,” per Wilkinson, and for the latter to get their hands on something that they wouldn’t easily find elsewhere. 

To join, you must submit an application, plus your social media and brand preferences. References from people who are already members can also better your chances of approval, though they’re not required. Once you’re in, you can pick one of three subscription tiers: Economy for $10/month, Business for $30/month and First Class for $100/month. The higher the tier, the more brands you can access and the less restrictions there are on the amount of clothes you can purchase. (Economy tier can shop up to three items a month; First Class can buy up to 25.) Oh, and no screenshots — if you do, you risk getting booted off the app. (If you’ve ever used the dating app Raya, this all probably sounds familiar.)

Photo: Courtesy of Mile

Mile has already brought on a powerful roster of investors, including LVMH Luxury Ventures, the Hermès family, Stefano Rosso, Burberry CIO Giorgio Belloli, Mschf Co-Founder Dan Greenberg and Jing Daily Founder Larry Warsh, among others.

“What excites me about this is not necessarily the raising money part, it’s just the energy you can add by doing this where people get involved,” Wilkinson says. “They have skin in the game and they get really excited about working together. I think we always just look at it as, ‘This is a way for us to build network, build energy and build word of mouth.'”

The team is already working on adding more brand partners, user features and community-building initiatives.

“With brands, there’s inventory in multiple different locations. For us, it’s really about trying to get visibility on all of this and bringing it to the customer in a unique way,” Wilkinson says. “You may see something and it may be the last time you’ll ever see it, or you may see it again later in the year or on another drop down the line — that’s part of the magic around the platform… you almost just don’t know what to expect.”

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