A personalized fashion marketplace that allows users to create a customized shopping feed of products with integrated checkout that makes it possible to purchase products from multiple retailers directly, Lyst was named one of the UK's Future Fifty, a list of the UK's 50 brightest companies and most likely to expand and succeed in 2013. Earlier this year Lyst announced $14 million in a round of Series B funding. To find out more about what it's like to handle communications for a fashion technology company right in the middle of serious growth and brand evolution, I connected with Joanna Christie who runs Global Communications. Enjoy this peek into quite the dream job!
How did you break into the fashion PR? What was your first gig?
After too many years spent on a law degree, a diploma in journalism and a multitude of unpaid internships with the likes of Vogue and InStyle, my parents told me to start earning some money!
There weren’t any magazine jobs available in London at the time – which is where I thought I was fated to be – so I was advised to go into fashion PR where I’d be dealing with the magazines daily and would therefore be in the mix when a job did come up. That was over 12 years ago!
My first PR job was at Modus Publicity – one of the largest fashion PR agencies in London whose clients at the time included Calvin Klein, Hugo Boss, Etro, Bally and Jonathan Saunders. I actually started in the beauty team, with amazing clients like M.A.C. Cosmetics and Bumble&bumble, and quickly caught the “brand” bug.
What is your role at Lyst?
I head up all global communications at Lyst, which is – in my opinion – the best job in the world! Fashion technology is possibly the most exciting space in the world to work in – and especially when you are working with the most exciting company in it! Lyst is a technology company, but most definitely a fashion brand. It is my role to build the Lyst brand, define what that is, and protect that brand. I am Lyst’s public eyes, ears and mouth.
Coming from a luxury background – immediately prior to Lyst I worked for the Richemont Group (who own Chloe, Alaia, Net-A-Porter, Cartier, Dunhill) – I bring an understanding of how important and precious brand equity is so it is my job to be thinking not just about the Lyst brand, but also how we represent all those amazing brands that we partner with. Additionally I am obsessed with how and why people fall in love with brands, so my team works on engaging with our amazing members and ambassadors.
We are a British company, based in London – the global leader in fashion tech – where we are so proud to neighbor with Net-A-Porter, FarFetch and Asos, all of which are also our partners. However 70% of our business comes from the USA so it is incredibly important that I spend time there – a week a month in NYC ensures I stay in touch with our largest market.
What is Lyst, in a nutshell?
Lyst is the best place in the world to shop for fashion. Instead of trawling across multiple sites, seeing the same generic selection as everyone else, we believe that shopping for fashion should be personal -- everyone deserves bespoke. We bring the world's fashion (everyone from Topshop, Burberry, Balenciaga, J.Crew to Barneys, Net-A-Porter, Lane Crawford and Saks, over 5 million products) onto our site and then create personalised shoppable fashion feeds for every user based on their own tastes and what they love (using social following model and our recommendation algorithms). Whether you are looking for a specific fashion item or category, or simply looking to be inspired, we have it all – literally.
How has Lyst evolved since it first launched?
Lyst is constantly evolving – that is the joy of working for a technology company! We are continually improving our product and coming up with cool, disruptive ideas.
When Chris & Seb -- Lyst’s co-founders -- first launched Lyst in June 2010, they thought social commerce would be the key to success, however it became very clear that the Lyst users were serious about shopping. Thus, the focus changed very early on to Lyst becoming as shoppable as possible. Last year we launched a Lyst shopping cart allowing members to check out from multiple stores all with one click on Lyst.com. This was an industry first and we will roll this out globally this year. We have some other exciting changes happening on the site in the next few months to complete the holistic fashion experience – so keep your eyes peeled.
What are some of the main PR goals for Lyst in 2014?
This is the year of Brand Lyst! We have spend the last 3 years building and developing the deepest, most dynamic real-time fashion and data in the world which was the most difficult bit (there is a reason why no-one has done it before!). This means our lucky members are the first to know when the products they have lusted after go on sale, come back in stock or when new pieces from the brands they love come in.
We are now in a great place to start singing about how amazing Lyst is. Everyone should know about Lyst: it should be synonymous with fashion online. We will be focusing a lot on mobile optimization – how can we make the service even easier on-the-go, too.
What is a recent company success story?
Earlier this year, Mary Katrantzou – the incredible British fashion designer – partnered with us to exclusively sell a collection from her resort collection on our site in the USA. This was the first time either brand had done anything like this and illustrated Lyst’s growing appreciation in the industry as an important fashion commerce platform – not just an aggregator. We had an amazing reaction from both the industry and the fashion press.
What's the vibe in the office? What are you currently working on?
We have recently moved into very cool new offices in London and New York. Specifically the London HQ moved to an amazing building in Shoreditch which was a former gallery: the very iconic former White Cube space, now rebranded as Lyst Studios.
The team at Lyst is amazing – the vibe is always so positive and buzzing. You can literally feel the innovation in the air! Everyone is super smart and the best in their field so we are all constantly learning from each other which is a very cool thing indeed. Being a technology company, 70% of the team is ‘techy’ – 10 of them are actually doctors. We like PHDs to handle our data! This is the kind of office where people don’t like to take their holiday allowance in case they miss something exciting that is created or improved on the site!
What is a newly discovered tool/software or product that helps you do your best work?
Not newly discovered but the greatest source for fashion news and trend stories is the online publication Business of Fashion. I also love a great app called Pocket, which allows you to store and save all those articles you don’t have time to read immediately – meaning I can use my time on airplanes to best effect!
How does Lyst work with retailers? Why might a fashion publicist recommend Lyst to her clients?
We partner with the world’s fashion – and only fashion – brands to create the smartest, cleanest commerce experience on the web. It is a ‘modern’ wholesale model – the fashion brands and stores get complete brand control, the margins are minimal and they get all customer data. We are now doing around $60million in sales annually for our partners. That is major!
As I said, this is the year of Brand Lyst, so it will only get better. Luxury is defined as the very best of something – as such, Lyst is a luxury brand and behaves as one. To be aligned with Lyst means to be aligned with the future of fashion commerce.
We work in one of the most influential industries in the world – both in terms of how fashion touches other industries and in terms of the personalities who lead and define our space. We are surrounded by amazing talent and people, we work very closely with them, we exist to support and celebrate them. In the next few months, we will be adding further content and community engagement highlights onto the site.
What skills or background are essential for anyone looking to work in the fashion mobile space?
Lots of energy; an open mind; the ability to think quickly and a genuine interest in both the fashion business and the amazing, amazing world of technology.
What are you especially excited about these days?
Genuinely, I’m most excited about what will happen next week or even tomorrow! Lyst is growing at a crazy rate and leading the fashion technology pack is an amazing place to be. Every day brings new opportunities. I’m one lucky lady!