Cult Mia was interviewed by Draper’s, The Fashion Retailer and The Industry List this past month. Our community has grown over the past year and with many new faces joining Cult Mia, we’re excited to share our journey and the highlights of each interview with you.
When was Cult Mia founded?
Officially launched in October 2019, the business was developed in London Business School’s accelerator in May 2019, from 100+ startups that applied, Cult Mia came out as the winning business of the 2019 Launchpad program.
Who was it founded by, and where is it based?
Based in London, Cult Mia was founded by Nina Brener-Hellmund, who focused on entrepreneurship while studying first at Stanford University and most recently while completing her MBA at the London Business school. Nina started her career in finance at Goldman Sachs and UBS’ Investment Bank, but her most recent experience at Moda Operandi, combined with her time at the United Nations’ Women & Trade team, led to the idea behind Cult Mia.
Why was it founded?
A London resident over the past few years and wearing pieces that Nina picked up from trips back home to Mexico was the first point of inspiration. Whenever anyone asked Nina about what she was wearing, it was never her high street boots, but always about her hand-beaded enamel earrings from Oaxaca. It was clear that shopping was becoming about stories and experiences.
In parallel, two of Nina’s previous roles shaped the concept behind Cult Mia:
Nina previously worked for the United Nations' Women and Trade team, focusing on supporting and scaling female-owned microenterprises in the least developed economies. While identifying a demand for the unique product and design that these independent fashion designers offered, Nina noticed that oftentimes incumbent luxury brands either purchased or replicated these original designs and pieces. The enormous opportunity to lift up independent fashion designers was evident and Nina wanted to build on this mission to provide the platform to shop independent brands locally and directly.
What is Cult Mia’s USP?
Cult Mia is your global trusted curator. The platform connects designers to their global and very engaged audience who is seeking exactly what the designers offer from a values perspective, as much as the product they sell. You can’t easily engage with these brands on Cult Mia: where would you find them, how could you trust their quality, and now with the pandemic, you can’t even travel to shop for them.
What types of brands are selected? E.g. premium / independent / UK / European /sustainable.
Cult Mia has on-boarded over 150 independent designers from over 30 countries across 14 product categories. When it comes to selecting brands, the platform has a two-pronged approach: 1) fit to its customer values and tastes and 2) brand and product vetting. Operational excellence comes first. Cult Mia identifies the right brands for its community in terms of uniqueness and exclusivity, while looking for value.
Cult Mia also wants to ensure a differentiated assortment for its customers. The platform can be the first to bring brands online or serve as brands’ springboard to markets outside of their own. Equally important is meeting the values that the Cult Mia community cares about when brands are handpicked. Cult Mia has focused on maintaining a balanced brand portfolio across our assortment criteria that includes female empowerment, local social enterprises, sustainability, and inclusivity.
Why is there a permanent offering (Cult Classics) on the site?
Cult Mia is investing in the brands that its community loves. The platform wants these high potential, high selling brands to grow alongside the platform. Fueling the growth of the Classics cohort, the ten selected brands tap into Cult Mia’s resources and benefit from an unparalleled range of brand services, spanning across ecommerce, analytics, digital marketing and logistics, not offered by other emerging platforms. As part of this collective, designers will offer Cult Mia customers the opportunity to benefit from exclusive styles, early access to new collections, as well as, made-to-order and bespoke offerings.
How has running a platform like this been throughout the pandemic?
Launching just a few months before the outbreak of the pandemic, Cult Mia was not around for very long pre-pandemic, so it has been tricker to compare running the platform before and after Covid-19. However, the key to Cult Mia’s model is agile curation and this model has been put to the test throughout the pandemic. In March 2020, Cult Mia pivoted from a ‘Wedding Guest’ edit to a ‘Staycation edit’, introducing nightwear, homewear, face masks and activewear to adapt to Covid-19 customer needs. Cult Mia can pick up on trends quickly and does not follow the fashion calendar. The platform is guided by customer appetite. If there is demand for a certain product, in less than 3 days a brand can be onboarded and live on site.
How does it focus on sustainability and ethics?
Cult Mia focuses on sustainability and ethics from the outset, as a guiding mechanism for brand partner selection and the products sold on site. The platform’s brand partner selection is based on guidelines that cover the areas of sustainability and ethics that Cult Mia and its community want to support. Cult Mia handpicks brands based on their assortment criteria that includes sustainable logistics, inclusivity, mission-driven, empowerment of women and supporting local communities. For example, 50% of products are handmade locally and 35% of brands see female empowerment as key to their mission.
Sustainability is key to continuing to differentiate Cult Mia’s assortment:
The platform looks to showcase brands that are pioneers in new, sustainable materials and unique production techniques (e.g. recently onboarded a vegan bag brand that makes products from apple skins.)
The brand partnerships team looks for sustainable brands that are otherwise hard-to-access geographically and Cult Mia brings them online for the first time or introduces them to the European market for the first time.
Cult Mia works closely with its brand sourcing partners network that spans across influencers, pr agencies, brand consultancies, regional fashion authorities that are scouting for the up and coming sustainable designers. The platform aims to drop these brands first (at times exclusively) and give them a permanent residence in its Sustainability Shop.