The U.S. Welcomes a New Digital Darling, and it’s Gilt Free

Two years after its website launch in 2009, Canada’s fledgling fashion e-commerce site, Beyond the Rack, has taken the flash sale market head on with an impressive revenue increase of twelve-fold in the past 18 months. Their success may seem shocking to most, especially considering Gilt Groupe’s rule over the luxury fashion flash sale empire and all the follower websites that have only served to dilute it. Perhaps the answer to this mystery is in BTR’s points of difference, one being that it remains an exclusive, invite-only website, and two being that it offers a wide array of discounted products to its members at many price points, not just “luxury” goods. But one thing is for certain: the stats don’t lie and prove that BTR is getting its American wings – even if Gilt still gets the school vote for Most Popular.

With BTR’s rapid growth of recent, the young company has found a second home in New York City, and has recruited 2011 FSF scholar and NYU Gallatin student Genevieve Cenower to its team. Read on for Genevieve’s interview with the FOF Blog as she talks BTR, the interviewing process and her advice for other FSF scholars.

FOF: Genevieve, tell us about yourself!

GC: A born and raised Manhattanite, I graduated from my  high school, Bard High School Early College, at the age of seventeen with an A.A. degree, and I am currently a student at the Gallatin School of Individualized Study in New York University pursuing a B.A. in my own major, fashion marketing and new media studies. I’ve always loved fashion and have maintained, at a minimum, a hobbyist’s interest in fashion. Now, I plan on entering the business side of the industry with the goals of becoming a buyer – through I’m leaving open the possibility of eventually running my own retail business (and maybe, time provided, some light jewelry design – I love making up concepts in my head for necklaces, rings and bracelets!)

FOF: Describe your internship with Beyond the Rack. What will you be doing?

GC: Since Beyond the Rack is a new company in the U.S. with a (currently) small office, my internship will involve my working across several different departments. I will be working in my primary interest of buying, but I’ll also be doing several other things (like planning, consumer/customer research and data organizing, general intern labor, etc.). I’ve been informed that I’ll have the opportunity of working closely and regularly with two of the buyers and the CMO of the U.S. office, so it’s going to be quite a comprehensive learning experience.

FOF: That sounds like such a great opportunity to learn! What are you most looking forward to?

GC: The fact that I’m going to be working in the e-commerce sector of the fashion industry, in addition to the fact that this particular internship is going to be so hands-on, is what I’m most looking forward to about working with the company this summer. Though I don’t know my long-term goals yet, I know I want to go into buying/retail merchandising, and I’ve always been interested in e-commerce fashion because it’s such a new element of the fashion industry, and I foresee a lot of growth in the field over the next several years. Being able to take part in what is now one of the driving influences of the fashion world is an amazing prospect, and – while the flash sale business model is especially new – I’m sure that working within that sort of environment will allow me to engage with the industry in a way I’ve not yet been able to previously.

FOF: What’s your opinion on e-commerce? Where do you see the combination of fashion and the Internet going?

GC: Our culture relies on the Internet for practically everything in daily life, and I think more and more people are beginning to realize the true potential of making everyday purchases (including fashion) within the online world. As we’ve seen with companies like Amazon.com, ShopBop.com, and – more recently –  companies like Macys.com (and other similar department stores with e-commerce branches), there’s a lot of desire on the part of consumers to have the sort of product range and availability that, realistically, only the Internet can provide. I don’t mean to launch into a whole discussion of why the Internet is one of the most important aspects of everyone’s life, but I will say this much: the online, virtual sphere – where people socially engage each other, conduct research, buy items, get directions, etc – directly determines how we live and, in many ways, how our overall culture (fashion, in this case) is shaped.

FOF: We couldn’t agree more! The Internet is where it’s at – the Future of Fashion! Tell us about your interview process – was it difficult? Any anecdotes or takeaways?

GC: The FSF has been an amazing help in connecting me, or making me available, to companies who are seeking interns for buying departments and other similar placements. Because I’ve been admitted into the FSF community, I’ve been able to talk to people from fashion companies that I’d otherwise have a harder time meeting. Provided that an employer actually wants to talk to you after initial resume screenings, interviews are a great opportunity to actually get to meet people within the field and have conversations with them.

FOF: So glad we could help you! What’s your mentality when you go into an interview? Do you get nervous?

GC: I try to go in with the mindset that, even if I don’t get a position with the company in question, I can at the very least potentially get some insight and knowledge into the industry from my interviewers and the overall experience – if not a new contact in the field or a future mentor! (In fact, the two women whom I met through the interview process for Beyond the Rack were wonderful, lovely people and one of them offered to be sort of a mentor and answer any future questions I had about either general things or her experiences in the fashion business.)

FOF: What a great attitude! Any advice for other FSF scholars going through the interview process right now?

GC: My advice to my peers at FSF – interviewing or otherwise – is that they should try to adopt the same (I’d like to think optimistic) attitude if they feel at all overwhelmed by applying for internships or going through interviews; we all can use interviews to network within, and gain more knowledge of, the overall industry that we’re clearly all passionate about. Be yourself, approach every chance to work in the field as a possibility to learn, and try to have fun: you’re getting your first opportunities to peek into the world you want to ultimately want to work in, and it’s exciting!

Want to connect with Genevieve? Follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/Gen_Claire

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