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Like so many startups, FashionStake was born out of personal frustration. Prior to founding Fashionstake, Vivian Weng spent many years working with major brands such as Elie Tahari and ESCADA, as well as emerging designers like Jeffrey Monteiro. During this time, she learned how difficult it can be for designers to reach their target audiences, no matter how impressive their collections. Moreover, as a fashion lover, Weng was frustrated at paying high prices at department stores for mediocre items. The fashion industry seemed broken.

While at Harvard Business School in September 2009, Vivian and her classmate, Daniel Gulati, teamed up and dreamed of a new era of “designer direct fashion”—where emerging designers are granted unprecedented access to their fans without pesky department store buyers getting in the way. FashionStake was officially born.