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Fashion Sees New Wave of Social Networking Sites

Bizzy and StyleTrek aim to lure fans away from Facebook.

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The newest social networks are organized around the needs and wants of designers, brands and retailers rather than ordinary users. It’s great news for fashion companies, but it remains to be seen if they will be able to lure their fans away from Facebook and Twitter long enough to make the new sites a success.

Launching Tuesday is a new version of Bizzy, a social network updated to automatically recommend local businesses such as boutiques based on the taste of other users who select similar favorites. To avoid upsetting small businesses with bad reviews as Yelp has done, the site dispenses with them altogether, instead letting users vote yes or no and leave a brief comment about any retailer they visit.

PassportStyle, a loyalty site for designers that made its debut during New York Fashion Week, was started by one of Silicon Valley’s more colorful couples and features designers from the CFDA Fashion Incubator, such as Alice Ritter, Tom Scott and Prabal Gurung. Participants can’t interact with each other, but they are rewarded for interacting with a designer’s page and promoting the designer on other sites with prizes such as limited edition scarves and invitations to fashion shows.

“We want to create a stronger, deeper relationship between designers, consumers and other fans and supporters of the brands through our technology,” said co-founder and chief executive officer Svetlozar Kazanjiev.

The site plans to be charge designers subscriptions and will not take advertising. Rates will vary according to the size of the brand.

Kazanjiev and co-founder Drue Kataoka attracted attention in Silicon Valley last year when they requested start-up costs such as programmer pay in their wedding registry. Kataoka, a fine-arts painter, has been described by Gawker’s Valleywag as the “inexplicable fameball priestess of Silicon Valley” for her online spiritual musings, interviews and performance-art-style appearances online involving Silicon Valley luminaries such as attorney Bill Fenwick and venture capitalist Tim Draper.

The same month, StyleTrek added e-commerce and social networking to its existing media site about emerging designers around the world. The New York-based network was started by e-commerce executive Cecilia Pagkalinawan and takes a cut of 25 percent from any sale and plans to take advertising and sponsorships. Members receive a 1 percent cut of sales if a designer they suggest winds up being carried by the site. The company plans to add designers every two weeks. So far, the site has 10,000 members and $1.5 million in seed funding.

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