It’s still hard to believe that Karmaloop has shut down.
Greg Selkoe knows why people point the finger at him.
When you’re the founder and CEO of a company that, at its peak, was revolutionary in its offerings, employed 250 people, and was regularly doing over $100 million in sales annually, you get blamed when things turn to shit.
And things did. Big time. But there are reasons—complicated reasons—and Selkoe wants you to hear them.
“Retail is a hard fucking business,” he said, roughly a month after being ousted as Karmaloop’s CEO.
Selkoe, now 40, started Karmaloop out of his parents’ Boston area basement in 1999. His idea was to sell cool clothes online to cool kids who didn’t have a cool boutique in their town. At the time, the idea of buying clothes on the Internet was preposterous. As “The Karmaloop Story” on karmaloop.com facetiously tells it, Selkoe got into business to combat the “evil forces of McFashion”— the Aeropostales, Banana Republics and Abercrombies—that “spread a dastardly agenda throughout the universe,” otherwise known as selling wack clothes. The mall brands were the Evil Empire. The rebel force was Karmaloop. And it successfully navigated the potholes of the early aughts to carve out more than just a niche in the e-commerce industry.
“It was bigger than just selling clothes,” said Selkoe. “It was about a culture.”
Selkoe realized the gear and brands Karmaloop featured had stories to tell, so the site posted interviews with designers and brand owners, and stories about up-and-coming artists—first within the EDM world, then hip-hop. Karmaloop was about clothes but became as much about content that introduced Kid Cudi, A$AP Rocky, and Kendrick Lamar to a new audience.