Breaking into a crowded e-commerce space isn’t easy, but one company is aiming to use its agency-driven background to connect top creatives, designers and influencers with consumers seeking an authentic shopping process focused on discovery and human connection.
Basic.Space is a curated members-only online marketplace offering exclusive access to unique experiences and products from influencers and creatives that span design, music, art and sports. The company aims to help shoppers in “combining the discovery of IRL with the accessibility of URL” during the experience.
Thus far, Basic.Space primarily sells vintage, rare and even unconventional fashion, apparel, footwear and accessories, but also offers home furniture and experiences—one recent example being a DIY footwear tutorial.
In launching its digital storefronts, members can shop from products featured in static shots and livestreams of creatives in their own space, giving them access to rare products and people they admire most.
While most companies have buyers that seek out different designers and products, Basic.Space is “curating the curators” by looking at its own sellers as its buyers.
“If you look across 100+ of our sellers, they’re all going to have a unique point of view and preference on band labels, designers, products and colors,” said Basic.Space CEO, co-founder and chief technology officer Jesse Lee. “Instead of relying on a buyer from Barneys or Bloomingdale’s, your buyer is your favorite influencer creative that you follow. That’s sort of our back-end logic and almost our more humanized algorithm. If you happen to follow one of our sellers on Instagram and you think he or she has cool taste in something, why wouldn’t you want to buy something that they’re either selling themselves or they want?”
Lee told Sourcing Journal that Los Angeles-based Basic.Space offers an advantage in the apparel space due to the transparency of these product curators, who typically are largely unknown in retail despite playing such a huge role in which products are sold.
The idea for the business sprang out of Lee’s experience at The Dfm, a creative and communications agency that he founded and continues to operate. Many of the thought processes that the agency was built on spilled over into the new marketplace: fostering authentic conversations and content over traditional marketing and PR efforts. The agency’s connections with influencers and creatives across industries, which Lee described the company as being “one degree away” from, have been beneficial in building the Basic.Space brand.
Launched on Sept. 21, the company’s first digital storefront was hosted by tennis professional and U.S. Open champion Naomi Osaka, who unveiled the U.S. debut of the Covid-19 masks that she and her sister Mari have been in the process of designing for several months. Basic.Space is the sole distribution channel for the siblings’ masks, whose total proceeds benefit UNICEF.
The marketplace operates on a membership model called Basic.Space Select that is designed to value community and connection above all else. It includes a private Instagram account accessible only to Select members, encouraging a direct and authentic dialogue between sellers, brands and customers. Each membership card, equipped with a unique QR code directing members to their own page on the site, unlocks exclusive access to digital storefronts and experiences. Furthermore, each member’s profile page is uniquely customized based on the information collected during the gamified onboarding process.
“The way that we define exclusivity isn’t so much that ‘you can’t sit with us, we’re too cool for school’ type of exclusivity. It’s really more about community, our ecosystem,” Lee said. “We might have big names like a Naomi Osaka, who is obviously super relevant right now in the world, but ultimately, we want to work with interesting people with unique points of view and products to push. Because if the products themselves aren’t good, the customers aren’t going to buy it.”
On the back end, Lee wants Basic.Space to be as vertically integrated as possible, offering a custom ERP system and performing fulfillment in-house. Every product the company sells goes through its warehouse, and benefits from its product and editorial photography. Basic.Space is operating the entire fulfillment process for some of the major brand partnerships it has either finalized or is in the midst of finalizing, he said.
“If it’s a European brand, they ship products to our warehouse in L.A., we shoot everything, we handle all the shipping, customer service,” Lee said. “Our goal is to continue owning the entire user’s experience, because our number one goal is the customer being happy right?”
While many marketplaces offer drop shipping or affiliate marketing, Basic.Space prefers to maintain tight control of its ecosystem. In fact, Lee believes the reliance on third-party tech providers overall essentially goes against what Basic.Space stands for, even if rival platforms seem cost-effective in the short term.
“Authenticity—we use that word a lot. If we want to build trust with our customers, we have to do it all,” Lee said. “You can’t just rely on a third party, however big or established it was, whether it’s a payments platform or a fulfillment center. I’m not saying we’re going to be perfect, but it’s important that we’re the ones responsible if there’s any mistakes. We don’t want our customers to talk to a third party.”
While Basic.Space operates out of L.A., the goal as it scales isn’t to necessarily make that city a hub or headquarters, but to have 20 to 30 mini-hubs worldwide that more closely align with local trends to maintain that sense of authenticity, while quickly getting products to consumers.
“Most companies have fulfillment centers in Florida or Texas or Kentucky depending on the proximity to where people are, and what we want to do is create hubs in key cities where the cultural things are happening,” Lee said. “We want to make sure we onboard the right sellers, the right creators that are locally influential and work with brands that are local and also influential.”
While Basic.Space appears at first glance to fit the modern Covid-19 shopping experience, the company’s origins came to fruition prior to the pandemic, particularly as it saw an earlier trend of digital storefronts as a way to scale something exclusive.
“If you go to a New York Fashion Week show and an afterparty, you’re going to be limited to a couple of hundred people, right?” Lee said. “How can we take that kind of experience and open it up to millions of people globally? That’s where the idea came from. How do we take these cool moments, whether it’s an in-store experience or an event at Art Basel, or Paris Fashion Week, all these things we’ve done in the past? When Covid hit, we ended up having something that we felt couldn’t be disrupted regardless of what’s happening around the world.”
As part of its belief in connecting through personal stories, over the next 12 months, Basic.Space will donate 1 percent of all profits to the Los Angeles-based non-profit organization +Me Project, whose mission is to empower middle and high school youth by teaching the art of storytelling.