Skip to main content

What Threads’ $20-Million in Funding Says About Where Luxury Retail Is Heading

Another day, another startup raising millions of dollars to propel its disruptive business model to the next level.

Except this time it’s Threads, the innovator selling women’s luxury clothing, shoes and accessories through messaging apps like Facebook Messenger, WeChat, WhatsApp and other popular chat-friendly platforms.

Threads plans to use $20 million in new funding to expand into additional categories and build out a men’s wear business as well.

Highland Capital, which as backed the likes of Rent the Runway and ThredUp, participated in the funding round along with C Ventures, which was invested in luxury fitness clothier Bandier, Moda Operandi and Tagwalk, the company that wants to become the Google of fashion.

Threads’ target customer is the high-spending millennial woman, though younger shoppers also embrace the model of chat-based commerce. Chat apps dominate many users’ time on mobile, making their usefulness for shopping a natural next-step in the traditionally high-touch world of luxury. Unlike some chat-commerce start-ups, Threads connects shoppers with human stylists rather than chatbots, though founder and CEO Sophie Hill told TechCrunch that it may make sense at some point to automate certain features through a bot.

Hill said Threads’ focus is on providing “curation and convenience,” which is a large part of why the company operates neither a standalone mobile app nor a transactional website, preferring to meet customers where they already naturally spend their time. In business since 2010, Threads’ now sees customers spending on average $3,000 per order, proof that consumers are ready and willing to spend through non-traditional channels.

Jetblack, the Walmart-owned startup out of its Store No 8 tech incubator, has also homed in on the potential for personalized service via text messaging to build a new kind of concierge-like commerce experience. Like Threads, Jetblack helps connect its customers with products they love, through a process that relies on texting with a live human being, though artificial intelligence is on hand to handle less specialized tasks.