There was a time when my wardrobe consisted of identical black and white T-shirts and dark navy pants so that I didn’t have to think about finding a passable outfit each day. I was intimidated by fashion and used clothes to blend in rather than stand out. While I’ve outgrown my all-dark colored wardrobe, my own early challenges with finding anything fun or easy about fashion is perhaps what first attracted me to Cider, a new, digital-first fashion brand. Cider gives me everything I wish I had decades ago, a huge selection of fashionable clothing, affordable prices, and a pledge to the environment.
As a digitally-native fashion company, Cider is following the footsteps of Guangzhou-based SHEIN and building a direct-from-factory marketplace to embrace the future of Real Time Retail. What this means is that while on the surface Cider looks like a direct-to-consumer company, it’s actually a marketplace of global factories that makes it possible for users to have more selection than Zara, at the price point of Forever 21, on-demand, and with minimal waste.
Cider is also taking a different approach to curation than SHEIN. The #cidergang is a global community of fashion-forward Gen Zers that expect tighter curation, higher quality, and an accessible price point. They love the clothes, but also want to put their own spin on the styling. By building out a digitized supply chain that also gives feedback to factories on which styles are in demand, Cider is able to use data-driven buying, merchandising, and marketing strategies to create the ultimate flywheel of great selection and great prices. In addition, Cider is building community through community chatrooms, styling tutorials, and delightful wishlist giveaways.
Since launching in 2020, Cider has already built a strong community of digital-native consumers who resonate with the company’s pre-order model which helps achieve a zero-inventory future. Delivering a long-tail of selection without sacrificing speed is extremely difficult, and is exactly what sets Cider apart from others: how many brands today can deliver new SKUs on a daily basis? Eventually, Cider will have enough ongoing new selection to deliver a personalized shopping experience for every customer. Imagine one day being able to browse thousands and thousands of SKUs all ranked and organized specifically for you based on your budget, style, and size.
Fashion is about style, fit, and expression, and this couldn’t be truer for Gen Z. This generation values individualism and the ability to make decisions for themselves. They don’t want to be told what to wear or buy. In that sense, I believe new generations will demand a greater variety of clothing styles, while also challenging companies to help them avoid breaking the bank and hurting the planet. (Just ask Cider fans including Claudia Sulewski or Avani!) Cider is creating this colorful future, and making it effortless to buy fun, joyful, comfortable clothing, at affordable prices, so people like my younger self don’t have to be afraid of color and patterns.
The company’s founder, Michael Wang, exemplifies founder-product fit. I met Michael five years ago, right before he co-founded his first startup YCloset, often considered the Rent the Runway of China. Through YCloset, Michael saw the inner workings of how fashion is produced and built deep networks of factories and supply chain experts. He knows what it takes to drop new SKUs on a daily, not quarterly, basis. In tandem, Cider’s pre-order model is the secret to enabling the company to deliver on-trend fashion, while reducing the waste that often accompanies accessible fashion. What’s more, the company keeps community at its core, involving customers in decisions, such as what to produce, how much, and which styles to bring back.
I’m thrilled to announce that Andreessen Horowitz is co-leading Cider’s Series A with DST Global, and I am joining the board. Michael and his team have shown us what it looks like to build a fashion company that truly uses technology in every part of its business.
P.S. The team is hiring globally!
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