Fashism, an Ashton Kutcher-backed social fashion startup, shuts down

Fashism, a New York-based mobile and web community for fashionistas, is closing its digital doors.

On Friday, the startup, which is backed by Ashton Kutcher’s A-Grade Investments, SV Angel and others, sent a note to its users saying that it will shut down its website and apps at the end of the month.

The four-year-old company gave fashion enthusiasts (which it called “fashists”) a way to share pictures of their outfits and receive feedback from others. The startup, which made money through sponsorships and advertising, also enabled users to discover clothing that others had tried on at nearby retailers and see the highest-rated outfit in surrounding stores. Last summer, it dabbled in e-commerce with what it described as a “pop-up” online accessories shop.

But cofounder and CEO Brooke Moreland said the company just wasn’t able to earn enough revenue to survive.

“It’s just hard to make money doing social, unless you have millions of users and, even then, it’s not always clear,” she told me. “We could keep ourselves running…but we weren’t going to be able to take it to the next level.”

Since launching, the company has raised $1 million in venture capital from the investors named above, as well as actress Demi Moore, fashion critic Nina Garcia, Highline Venture Partners, Vast Ventures and Rick Webb, formerly of the Barbarian Group. And it had attracted a community of tens of thousands of users (last year, it reportedly had 80,000 users but declined to share its latest numbers).

A few other startups, most notably GoTryItOn (which was acquired by Rent the Runway earlier this year and shut down), similarly created photo-driven communities for fashion. But Moreland said none have found big success.

She said she has some other ideas for startups, although not necessarily in fashion. One thing she is sure of: her next venture will have a clearer path to revenue from the start.

“A few years ago, there was a ‘build it and they will come’ mentality,” she said, explaining that there used to be more comfort with building the product and user base and figuring out the business model afterwards. “But not as much now.”