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How to start an ecommerce retail site

May 20, 2018

Interview with Catherine Smith, Founder of emerging brand ecommerce platform, Plan De Ville

Catherine Smith is the Founder & CEO of Plan de Ville, which is an ecommerce site featuring emerging brands. She worked in editorial and styling before getting a Master’s Degree in Fashion Studies at Parsons. She is currently getting her Executive MBA from Columbia University.

Catherine grew up in Lawrenceville, NJ and went to Loyola University, where she studied Political Science & Writing. She studied abroad at The American University of Paris. She knew early on she wanted to work in the fashion industry starting with inspiration from her grandparents.

Growing up in NJ, gave her a sense of the psychology of shopping from frequently visits to the mall. She worked in commercial print modeling, which led to her curiosity of the editorial industry. She interned at W Magazine and worked directly with the Editor-In-Chief (EIC) & his assistant. After this, she briefly worked with a designer and then went back to editorial to work at Brides Magazine.

Should you go to graduate school?

Next, she got a Master’s Degree in Fashion Studies at Parson’s. While getting this degree, she also launched Plan de Ville, so 2014 was a big year for her! While studying at Parson’s, Catherine briefly worked with a stylist. Today, she is still running PDV and simultaneously getting an Executive MBA at Columbia Business School.

Plan De Ville (PDV) is an ecommerce site that focuses on carrying designers in their first five seasons. They offer a tightly edited and curated mix of pieces from emerging brands & pair them with slightly more established labels. Catherine is focused on trying to craft a workplace that is based on flexibility for both women & men.

Catherine has published research on the psychology of luxury dressing, so she has a great understanding & in-depth knowledge of the way women shop & dress.

At Brides, she was given the opportunity to discover emerging brands. Instagram allowed designers to rewrite the rules that wouldn’t work in a traditional retail model. She was getting compliments on items she had bought from emerging designers and realized the industry could benefit from an ecommerce solution that have the same quality of pieces, but a different merchandising mix than is ideal for a large department store. The site curates the same brands & products she would’ve been suggesting to women, but focuses on the commerce side.

What does Plan De Ville mean?

The name, Plan De Ville (PDV), came from the concept of progress. We know the emerging designers are going somewhere and are currently growing. One of the French words she knew was, “plan de ville”, which is a diagram or map of the town or part of the city you are in. It included “ville” which is in the name of her hometown. She wanted to be able to abbreviate the word and for it to look nice on a page. PDV is all about inclusive fashion and women procuring the items or brands they are trying to hunt down on Instagram.

Emerald green is the signature color for PDV.

Catherine is interested in technology and was creating html websites and playing with gifs from the age of 10. Therefore, she wants tech to be at the forefront of the site and to have the customer experience be as frictionless as possible.

Want tips for starting a business?

  • Make sure you staff up appropriately
    • Who is going to be your attorney and accountant?
  • Get a sales tax certificate
    • The first step is documentation, paperwork, & corporate filings. You need to decide who you are going to ask for legal advice
  • Make sure you have the logistical framework about the idea
    • Your idea needs to solve a problem (or a few!) in the market. It needs to get you excited and out of bed in the morning

This interview is featured on The Style That Binds Us YouTube channel and the full version can be found on The Style That Binds Us (links to all below).

Here is a link to TSTBU Podcast where the full interview can be found!

Delia Folk

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