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Grailed emerges as more than a marketplace
February 27, 2017
Grailed exists because Arun Gupta couldn’t afford Visvim, a Japanese designer brand founded by Hiroki Nakamura in 2001. The brand is known for its earthy aesthetic, frequently using indigo and other natural materials.
Gupta, Grailed founder and CEO, had been searching for a pair of FBT bearfoots, which retails for a daunting $700. Having just recently graduated from Yale, he realized a purchase like that was out of the question. Gupta decided to create Grailed, a curated online marketplace for men’s clothing with the goal of making great clothing available and affordable for everyone.
Fast forward five years to 2017 and Kendall Jenner is wearing an AW14 Raf Simons x Sterling Ruby cropped bomber jacket purchased off of Grailed. More celebrities including A$ap Rocky, Lil Uzi Vert and Playboi Carti have all worn clothes from the company.
“Grailed really represents fashion for the people,” Gupta said in an interview with Fashion Moves Forward. “We really try to live by our motto of ‘Fire for all.’”
Grailed consists of three different marketplaces: Grailed, Hype and Basics. Basics offers more mainstream affordable brands including Gap, J Crew and vintage. Hype is reserved for limited Streetwear releases including Supreme and Vlone. Grailed, the original marketplace consists of high profile designers including Helmut Lang, Rick Owens, Boris Bidjan Saberi and more.
“He didn’t want to go through the process of looking through ten different websites, such as Hypebeast, Ebay, Reddit or Stylezeitgeist,” said Scott Santiago, Grailed Director of Site Curation. “He wanted to create a website that took all of those websites and their users and give them one central marketplace to find the best deals,” he said.
Santiago has been on the team for about two years.
“I posted something for sale that Head of Marketing Jacob (Jake) Metzger removed and long story short, I sent him a nice email saying, ‘I’m always on the website and I’d love to help out if need be,’” he said. “I was lucky enough for Jake to get back to me, and we both lived in New York so we met up easily and I got started.”
Santiago’s original position was marketing related, but he later moved to site curation. Essentially this means he is responsible for preventing fraud, scammers and fake items from existing in the marketplace. He also buys and sells on Grailed and has completed over 400 transactions.
Not only does the company offer three marketplaces to list clothing, they take a lesser percentage of the sale than most marketplaces, including eBay.
“Grailed fees are 6% plus the cost of PayPal invoice fees so it comes out to a little under 10%,” Santiago said. “EBay is about 15% if I remember correctly. Grailed is definitely lower than any other marketplace.”
When Grailed first started, there was no fee implemented on sellers. Senior Sam Jones, a frequent Grailed user, dislikes the fee because he makes less money reselling.
“I’ve lost almost $300 I could have right now due to the Grailed fee,” he said. “I definitely preferred selling without it.”
Despite the loss, Jones understands the fee.
“I realize the need for the seller fee, but I worry about it increasing over time, sort of like what happened to eBay,” he said. “It’s nice the Grailed people are making money and I can tell my fee I pay as a seller has made the site a lot better.”
Santiago believes the fee is necessary to ensure the site’s success.
“The thing that people have to realize is that the seller’s fee goes toward making Grailed a better place,” he said. “The fee is what pays us so there are a lot of costs to running a company even if it is just a website.”
The fee has also made it possible for Grailed to add features including the Grailed 100, a large scale, 100 item release of extremely rare, archive clothing featuring designers such as Raf Simons, Supreme and Undercover.
“The original idea was to have a weekly drop in the same way as we do now,” he said. “Future employee Lawrence Schlossman posed the question, ‘Why are we doing four pieces a week when we can do 100 pieces all at one time?’”
It takes a lot to bring together 100 garments. Grailed purchased the pieces, shot a lookbook and added descriptions and detailed pictures for each item, which took more than half a year to prepare.
“We buy pieces as a company, not individually, and we sell them at a discount so they’re more affordable for all,” he said. “Say we buy a Soloist poncho for $800, we might sell it for $400 on the Grailed 100. It’s a way for us to give back to users and give them a chance at affording extremely rare pieces.”
Several items sold on the Grailed 100 Santiago wished he could’ve kept.
“There’s one piece I was really upset that we had to sell, which was this Dolce and Gabbana jacket from AW 2003-2004,” he said. “I’m not even sure what the name is, but it’s literally 30 pounds, it’s just insane. It’s got straps on the back of the jacket and a belt loop around the left arm. It literally weighs you down.”
The jacket sold for $1,000 within seconds.
In addition to funding the Grailed 100, the fees pay for
the Grailed protection feature.
Grailed protection is an additional layer of security for the buyer in case they get scammed or receive a package that isn’t as described. In the event that a PayPal claim with compelling evidence is decided unfairly, Grailed will fully refund the money.
“We want to make sure it’s a secure, reliable and well known marketplace,” Santiago said. “In order to do that, we need to charge fees so that we can compensate
people in the event something goes wrong.”
What sets Grailed apart is it has a lot more to offer than solely buying and selling. There are features like Dry Clean Only, where you can find articles documenting the history of a designer, photo slideshows from Fashion Weeks around the world and Grailed staff picks.
Jones especially appreciates Dry Clean Only.
“I think it’s a great addition,” he said. “I like the street style posts the most. They’re fun to look at for inspiration for outfits. Some of them are laughable too. I come for the hate comments.”
Junior Will Hentz isn’t as enthused about the Dry Clean Only section.
“I’ve never really paid much attention to Dry Clean Only,” he said. “I come to Grailed to look at clothes I like, not to read about Grailed users and look at bad outfits.”
Hentz doesn’t have a PayPal or credit card, so he window shops and admires some of his favorite designers’ pieces. Hentz believes that the website has come a long way.
“The layout has continuously improved since the beginning,” he said. “It makes viewing items a lot easier.”
Hentz, Jones and Santiago can all agree on one thing: Grailed has forever changed the way they shop online.
“I think in the long term Grailed will change the meaning of an online marketplace,” Santiago said. “I believe it will redefine the culture of buying and selling items on the internet, not just fashion.”
Contact the writer, Benjamin Greco at email@example.com