If you're like us, you've probably scrolled mindlessly past Instagram ads hawking affordable designer bags made by the same factories hired by European fashion houses. It's not fashion fiction—in fact, Los Angeles-based startup Italic is the upscale direct-to-consumer disruptor that's ditching the pricey labels and offering luxury goods crafted from the same hands that have made merch for Celine and Prada—but sans the high-end markup.
Priced at $120 per year for access (that fee is being waived for anyone who signs up in 2018), the membership-based online marketplace officially launched last week and has already garnered a waitlist of over 100,000 eager shoppers, but we had a chance to skip the line (sorry, everyone!) and take the site for a spin. Here's how it all works: Since Italic allows members to buy goods at factory prices, shoppers are in for some tough decisions as they're limited to two purchases per month and inventory is limited (as in there might only be 30 to 200 available of certain items) in order to ensure that everyone's treated to an exclusive retail therapy experience.
This means that you might need to narrow down between a pebbled leather crossbody bag and a chic white leather tote (both priced around $150 and made by the same manufacturers used by Celine) or $175 lavender calf leather satchel and a $250 nappa leather double-gusset tote (both from the same makers behind Prada's products). Now, compare all of that to the $2700 you might pay for a new Celine Trapeze bag or the $2400 you'll drop on a Prada Galleria tote.
There are also textured leather zip card cases in a variety of colors for $40, a quilted white lambskin crossbody bag for $135, a minimalist-cool leather backpack for $195, and buttery black leather jackets for $425.
Not a bag lady or lad? The brandless market also offers cashmere scarves produced by the same manufacturer of Burberry's goods and leather wallets from the makers of Miu Miu's accessories (both go for $95). They also plan on stocking rose gold glasses or retro black sunnies (both $75 each) from the producers who craft frames for eyewear giant EssilorLuxottica—which owns brands like Rayban and Persol and also makes glasses for Chanel, Oliver Peoples, and Coach, to name just a few.
There's more than just merch for your closet: Home goods will soon be headed to the shop, including chic electric toothbrushes for $45 (made by the makers of Sonicare's products), $100 bedding sets that's the same quality as the Ritz Carlton's, and skincare that features the same ingredients used by La Mer.
Another cool thing? Members can also invite two friends to sail past the wait list and shop immediately.
Of course, there's a strict vetting process to ensure that you're getting (more than) what you paid for. Italic's team—which is made up of product designers and experts in technology and manufacturing—approve each factory based on rigorous production and quality control standards, as well as their certifications, working conditions, and sustainability. The company's founding team have spent time working for everyone from Snap and Shopify to Patagonia and Pinterest, as well as Calvin Klein, to name just a few.
No wonder that the LA-based startup nabbed $13 million in venture funding to revolutionize luxury shopping—and the fact that at 23, founder Jeremy Cai is essentially an industry veteran whose career path detoured from finance to fashion by way of tech. Here's the short version of his story: Hailing from an immigrant family that started a manufacturing business (where he grew up helping out) 30 years ago, Cai dropped out of college at 19 and started own software company, nabbing a $100,000 grant from Thiel (a fellowship for "young people who want to build new things instead of sitting in a classroom") and funding from startup seeder Y Combinator.
Accoutrements aficionados will be grateful that he put all of that money, his smarts, and experience to good use as the results aren't just good for their bank accounts; they're also good for the manufacturers, who can break free from the traditional retail model and earn more money for their employees.
Too impatient for the waiting list? We've teamed up with Italic to hook up five lucky readers with a free one-year membership. The catch: You'll just need to subscribe to our newsletter using the form below by this Thursday, November 22 11:59 p.m. PT for a chance to win. And given that members can invite their pals to shop, this might be an opportune time to encourage your fellow deal-loving label lovers to sign up, too.
On that note, subscribe below and we'll shoot you an email with additional details if you're a winner, so keep an eye out on your inbox while you're gobbling up that turkey or tofurkey. Good luck! The giveaway's over — thanks for playing, everyone!