Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Sari Azout: Co-founder of Bib & Tuck.


As someone who's equally interested in both fashion and tech, I often find interesting new companies that merge the two springing up on the regular. I have a huge soft spot in my heart for bold people who turn a small idea into something meaningful that changes the way that people consume. When my friend Kaitlin put me on to Bib & Tuck I was instantly drawn to the site's concept of shopping without spending. By bib-ing the items in your closet that you've grown out of, you get "bucks" to tuck amazing items from someone else's. I sat down with Sari Azout — one of the company's co-founders — to get the backstory on the rising company, breaking into the fashion industry without connections, and how getting your hands dirty is essential to becoming successful in the world of startups.

What’s your first fashion memory?

When I was in elementary school and my mom would take a trip somewhere, I used to invite my friends after school and we would just play in my mom’s closet. I feel like I became amongst my friends the place to play dress up.

How did Bib & Tuck come about?

Sari and I have been friends forever. We both grew up in Colombia, and we went to Kindergarten and Elementary School together. Then she moved to Miami and we parted ways for a long time. After college we ended up living in the same building in the Lower East Side. She was working at Gilt and I was a Bond Trader.

We weren’t really happy with our jobs, but we were so inspired and stimulated by the city and the consumerism. We started using each other’s closets, and one day one of us was like “this is like shopping without spending.” That term really stuck with us. Then I heard the phrase ‘bib and tucker’. In Medieval England they would say “wear your best bib and tucker” meaning wear your finest outfit. It was never about building a business, it was very slow and very organic. We went with the name because we felt like it was the first step in building a brand that was different from everything that’s out there. Part of that was making up our own lingo. To bib is to give, to tuck is to take. That has been a huge aspect of our community building.

How has Bib & Tuck become so successful in such a short amount of time?

From the outside, people think wow they’ve only been around for a year and they have all of this press and all these people. Everyday is a really long day with lots of challenges. We’ve made a lot of mistakes. How did we do it? I don’t even think we’re there yet. We’re still very new, and we’re grateful for what the response has been. I would say we’re about 5% of the way there in terms of what we want to do.

I honestly feel like gut feeling is underestimated. People do things in a very structured way. I graduated from Brown, and I just emailed editors at magazines that also went to Brown. I was just like ‘hey I just launched this, would love for you to check it out and send feedback’. We had a vision and slowly executed it.

Do you feel like the NYC tech/startup community as a whole has contributed to your rise?

I made a big point of getting ourselves out there and subscribing to all of these meetups. It’s now a little bit more cohesive, with things like the Fashion Tech Dinner. It’s made it really easy to connect with people. It has made the world of fashion tech much smaller, and that makes it easier to collaborate. It’s definitely been important.

Aside from e-commerce you have an amazing blog and weekly e-newsletter. How did you decide that you wanted to dive into original content?

When you’re buying a garment you’re not only buying the garment, you’re buying the person behind the garment. It really is all about the story behind the piece. That story about the piece translates into every other aspect of the site. Content is key for us. We try to do things very creative. Nothing is dramatically different, but it plays to our user. We’re speaking directly to our demographic. It’s very casual, our users are like me-- 25 year old girls who can’t afford all of the amazing things they want. If you really want to change behavior, you have to do it through design and really good content. The way you say things is really important. I’m particularly fond of using content as a way to keep it simple and change behavior.

Did you start off in the fashion industry with a lot of connections?

Absolutely no connections. We were just two girls. Sari went to NYU and I went to Brown, so naturally we had a network of friends in different areas. Sari and I come from a similar background, we’re community driven. We did have big networks and acquaintances that we could tap into for help. We were just very resourceful. I was by no means the girl that graduated college and knew editors and grew up in the fashion world, which I think speaks to the fact that if you have a good idea and you work hard it’s not impossible to get into the fashion world. The fashion world needs refreshing ideas, because from the inside nothing changes.

Can you pinpoint when you realized Bib + Tuck was really starting to take off?

We started developing the idea when we still had jobs. One day we said, let’s make a video. Mind you, we had no website, nothing. We just wanted to make a video. Basically we had a couple of friends wear a jacket and toss it off-screen and then the another friend was wearing it. It was the idea of one jacket being worn in many different ways. We reached out to friends and we had everything set and the day before one of the girls cancelled. When she cancelled she said she’d find us someone. She emailed an entire list of people and one of them was an editor at Vogue. She landed on our idea before we even had a site. A week later we were up on Vogue. We got about 1500 emails just from that article. That’s when we said we should quit our jobs and do this.

What do you do on days when times are rough?

I’m not the best at handling stress to be honest. I rely a lot on the other Sari. We have an amazing relationship. She’s much better at handling stress than I am. Usually we balance each other. What I do is rely on my business partner.

Where do you see Bib & Tuck in 5 years? 10 years?

5 years is a really long time for a startup. For me, I want to make buying used awesome. If every American reused just one shirt, we’d save 300 billion gallons of water. I’m thinking about how to shift people’s mindsets into thinking about consumption in a different way, and price per use as opposed to the price tag on a garment. And the fewer better things mantra. I see Bib & Tuck as pioneering that shift in consumption. By all means I want to build a profitable business, but I’m not aspiring to have a 100 million user network. I would rather change the way my niche consumes, and I’ll be really happy to change the rules of the game.

Do you have any words of wisdom for those looking to follow in your footsteps?

In the beginning it’s really easy to doubt yourself. You just have to get your hands really dirty. Entrepreneurship is glorified in many ways-- you have to know what you’re getting yourself into. It’s not well documented what the process is like. To this day, there’s a lot of shit that you have to deal with. At the beginning, you’re wearing two or three different hats. If you work in a startup company you have to be comfortable with the risk. If you’re not comfortable with the risk, then you won’t succeed, Fear is going to overcome you.

**image via Motel Rocks**