Co-Founder and CEO Áslaug Magnúsdóttir Leaves Moda Operandi

Áslaug Magnúsdóttir | Source: Courtesy photo

NEW YORK, United States Áslaug Magnúsdóttir, co-founder and chief executive of Moda Operandi, has left the company. The news comes less than a year after the New York-based start-up raised $36 million in a Series C round of funding led by RRE Ventures, with the participation of existing investors New Enterprise Associates, New Atlantic Ventures and Condé Nast, as well as strategic investors IMG and LVMH.

Magnúsdóttir, who has been a columnist at BoF, declined to comment. At the time of publishing, the reasons for her departure were not clear, though an article in the New York Post suggested there was a falling out between Ms Magnusdottir and her co-founder, Lauren Santo Domingo.

A former McKinsey consultant and Gilt Groupe executive, Magnúsdóttir was the driving force behind Moda Operandi, which she co-founded, in 2010, as a members-only, ‘pre-tail’ site, offering customers early access to covetable runway looks from luxury fashion brands including Marc Jacobs and Proenza Schouler.

Santo Domingo, a contributing editor at American Vogue, brought the company important connections to the powerful magazine and many of the designer labels that agreed to work with the start-up in its early days. But, according to sources at Moda Operandi, Santo Domingo was not working at the company on a daily basis.

For Moda Operandi and its investors, the question remains as to who will take over the company’s day-to-day operations following Magnúsdóttir’s exit.

The news may prove a boon to fashion e-tailer Net-a-Porter, owned by Compagnie Financière Richemont, which has been in direct competition with Moda Operandi since the start-up’s expansion from ‘pre-commerce’ to traditional, in-season e-commerce in 2012.

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  1. I’m having a heart attack. I can’t believe this is happening! :O

    Eddie from New York, NY, United States
  2. This was so obviously go to happen. The whole scenario reminded me of the “” days — breathless hype and a management seemingly more concerned about trumpeting their success at gaining investment that actually having a viable business to run. BOF was an enabler in this situation by giving this woman a platform to hype her business which was build on a house-of-cards from the beginning.

    David Royce from United Kingdom
  3. I don’t believe that had a very viable business in the beginning. They have been trying to seek more content and more images from a multitude of representative fashion designers’ PR agencies, and they haven’t been successful because they have started to lose their market influence. You just know a company isn’t succeeding because they spend more time delineating about how good business is run, but not actually ‘getting on’ in running a business.

    Michael from Revesby, New South Wales, Australia
  4. The writing was on the wall all the time. Here is the “About Section” from the website. Could you imagine a more badly written, amateurish bit of copy?

    Founded by Áslaug Magnúsdóttir and Lauren Santo Domingo, Moda Operandi is the only place to preorder looks straight from the unedited runway collections of the world’s top designers–months before they are available anywhere else.

    Channeling this ethos of discovery, Moda Operandi presents Boutique, an expertly curated selection of in-season items from both established and emerging designers worldwide.

    In homage to the history of couture, Moda Operandi offers a bespoke shopping experience that includes unprecedented access to your favorite designers and hand-selected recommendations from personal stylists.

    Moda Operandi has established a retail renaissance where the time-honored institution of luxury meets an innovative point of view on fashion.”

    David Royce from United Kingdom
  5. Mr. Royce what do you base your assumption on that the company has been performing badly? To the contrary, my understanding is that the company has been a huge success. Global recognition, prominent designers, strong sales, etc. This sounds like a classic founder dispute to me. wasn’t that – it was about founders who went on a crazy spending spree, flying private jets, etc., driving the company into the ground. Personally I think it is a shame that Ms. Magnusdottir is out. As someone who has launched a business, I know how hard it can be. I appreciated her sharing with us the highs and lows of the journey. I wish her the best of luck.

    Soffia from Iceland from Gullbringusysla, Iceland
  6. Miss Sofia — How could you possibly know the company is a “huge success” ? Do you work for the company? If you don’t everything you know or think you know is, in fact, hype and or heresy. Regarding you “appreciation” that Ms. Magnusdottir shared her “journey,” dp you really think her #1 aim was to selflessly “share her journey.” Most students of marketing would more likely see her column as a way to promote her company, her brand and herself. She has been a tireless self-promoter for many years. Unfortunately, self-promotion isn’t enough to save a business with deep problems.

    David Royce from United Kingdom
  7. As a MSc graduate in Marketing & Strategy I do not believe that Ms Magnusdottir used this platform purely to promote her business (of course it helps). If readers pay close attention to the intimacy of the content one realizes that a marketing gig could have consisted of much less personal depth and still be equally effective. However, I enjoyed the interplay of entrepreneurial spirit and fashion business and believe Ms Magnusdottir will be successful in future endeavours.

    Carlos from United Kingdom
  8. David is a NAP paid shill and a hater.

    Haters gonna hate.

    yo! from New York, NY, United States
  9. @fashiontechguru

    This is an excerpt from a 2012 article on modaCYCLE, for which I had the opportunity to interview her briefly after a panel discussion…

    “After the panel concluded, I had a chance to speak with Áslaug Magnúsdóttir. Usually her partner, former Vogue contributing editor Lauren Santo Domingo, is the face of the company, but it seems like Ms. Magnúsdóttir is the business mind behind the company’s rise. Seth Friedermann and I have been watching Moda Operandi (surprisingly pronounced “oper-andy” vs. “oper-and-i” by the co-founder) with a quizzical eye since before its launch. There have been a lot of questions. From the start it seemed to be an unworkable model in the existing marketplace. Designers need 6 months or longer to deliver mass-produced versions of the samples shown on the runway, and major department stores demand to receive first dibs on delivery dates. We wondered, how can this function? How many people will be willing to wait that long for a retail purchase? We also noticed that in partnership with US Vogue, reviews of runway shows suddenly had “click to buy” affiliate links on, which would directly drive profit to the magazine from endorsements. Although it is already unusual to see Vogue publish any sort of negative commentary on one of their advertisers, there was now an even greater profit incentive threatening journalistic integrity. So, I posed these questions to Ms. Magnúsdóttir, who replied that the insulation for Vogue’s journalistic integrity is that they automatically include a sales link for any collection they review which is a Moda Operandi partner (they launched with about 50 partnered brands, and are now up around 300). Although this is a response, it would not seem to be an answer, because Vogue is still left with a profit motive for pushing specific brands in front of consumers and singing praises of which those collections may or may not be worthy.

    “On the functional sustainability question, she had already on the panel disclosed that the company launched early to beat out potential competitors, perhaps a solid strategy and perhaps a bit of paranoia, but speaking with me afterwards she added that they have agreements with designers to be on the same short list with major brick and mortar buyers, and that the company expects the 6-month delivery cycle must eventually come down to a two-month cycle. She seems to believe this is inevitable. “It must happen,” she said. Moda Operandi will inevitably sink or swim on that point, because the handful of highest end early adopter consumers they currently service, those with AMEX ‘Black’ cards and the patience to wait 6 months for a new fleet of cocktail dresses, are most likely not in the end a large enough market to sustain the model. Something has to give for this company to be successful. They must be able to reach a mass market audience, even if it is only reaching down to the upper middle class. Moda Operandi is perhaps the most disruptive brand represented on the panel, for consumers and designers alike, as they seek to change Press Week and Market Week from a wholesale to a retail buying season. It is a gamble, but one that could pay off for everyone involved if they are actually able to advance the delivery cycle for the majority of runway looks. We may see a split happening soon, with a handful of the more artistic designers who will always need that degree of lead time, remaining behind in the old cycle, which would defeat Moda Operandi’s originally stated intent, to make the most unique pieces more available. Many questions remain, and the only thing certain is that only time will tell.”

    Charles Beckwith from Brooklyn, NY, United States
  10. @David, you seem to cough up some really sour grapes almost any time a new fashion startup is profiled. I’m sure when Net-a-Porter was founded people thought they were another for no reason other than the fact that they were both businesses selling things online. Obviously, it doesn’t work out for everyone but you seem to have an irrational aversion to anyone actually trying to innovate. I’m surprised you had the time to respond in between kicking kids off your lawn, and telling them how you had to walk to school uphill both ways back in your day. You fail to explain what exactly about the business is a “house of cards.” Is it the fact that they’ve expanded their initial proposition into traditional, season based retailing? That the former CEO was open enough to share what she’d learned to that point?

    The fact that she was willing to talk about successes or failures for personal branding, company branding or whatever motivation you seem to find negative is still admirable in an industry where very few people will tell you honestly about either and keep everything shrouded in smoke and mirrors.

    And turning your question around, how do you know the business has deep problems? Do you work for the company? If you don’t everything you know or think you know is, in fact, hype and or heresy. Reference some numbers that shows they’re burning through cash without revenue to sustain it, or have a seat and quit with the unsubstantiated attacks.

    The single source offering a reason for the dismissal of Ms. Magnusdottir attributes it to a lack of “cool,” which IS completely ridiculous, but something you seem to have not even read. If indeed she left because she wasn’t in enough to run with the in crowd, then that mentality is more ominous for the business than anything else.

    As someone else said, it sounds more like a classic founders dispute, which is rarely clear cut. I wish Ms. Magnusdottir the best, and hope that her next endeavor is still within the fashion/tech space.

    YM Ousley from Chicago, IL, United States
  11. Im surprised that I have not read any comments that mention what probably occurred. When companies of this size raise huge sums of financing, $36 million being the last raise a few months ago, very often missions and focus change. C level execs and founders often have to shift their visions and maybe she did not want to do it. This happens more often than not as the financing entities want to have a bigger voice in how they can make a better exit.

    AG Levy from Halethorpe, MD, United States