Updated 6:49 p.m. to include screenshots from an anonymous source's dms with SSENSE.
Polyvore, online fashion design platform was acquired by SSENSE today and Polyvore's user base was told via an email today that the platform has been shut down.
The email explained the Polyvore team was appreciative of the 11 years of loyal users and thanked users for their smiles.
It was a horseshit email and a horseshit way to deal with what could have been a positive change.
I get that in 2018 the bottom line is important and I get that Polyvore was struggling. None of that negates how valuable a loyal user base is.
Although I have my own ideas, I can't really speculate as to why SSENSE wanted Polyvore. I know definitively that it wasn't for the millions of user-made creations, as user profiles were promptly deleted and replaces with a hack job method to potentially download user content.
Polyvore operated on the basis of millions of images, clipped into an editor, then users went wild. From interior design; menswear, womenswear, and childrenswear; to scrictly artistic 'sets,' Polyvore users were given a platform to create.
And create we did.
I joined Polyvore 9 years ago. and I began making sets with clothes from Hollister and Abercrombie I couldn't afford.
I told my friends about Polyvore and my friend Claire and I would talk about Polyvore in math class. We'd pull up her profile on her family computer and we'd comment on each other's sets. We'd use the messenger feature to talk about the boys we liked or what we were going to wear to school dances.
Then, slowly, as I grew, Polyvore grew. Contests and challenges taught me new brands, new styles, new ways of doing things.
In like 2007, there was a trend where users would make mosaic 'sets' out of eyeshadow swatches, creating something new from a boring stale picture.
I entered a small contest with an entry I'd worked on for hours. I had outlined a backflipping gymnast's body only using those little colored images.
Let me tell you, I was fucking proud, and I had every right to be. I was 13 and creating art that other people cared about.
On Twitter today, I've read the stories from hundreds of disappointed Polyvore users.
From young children to single mothers, lgbtq+ youth, mentally ill teens, grandmothers, people from Portugal, Italy, Spain, and more, Polyvore was a place for expression, creativity, art.
And everything is gone.
SSENSE is an online retailer with no editor feature, essentially ripping the least important aspect away from Polyvore and trashing all the gooey creative insides that mattered.
They either want user data, email addresses, passwords and more, or they want something else, maybe something trademarked or something in the code, but this wasn't the way to get it.
Even if this acquisition was truly the only way and Polyvore didn't sell us to the highest bidder (which I firmly believe) this was not the way to handle it.
In the digital age, it has become standard operating practice to give notice when a site is going to shut down. Recently, think about AIM shutting down. Hell, even fucking Picnik let users know what was happening, when it was happening and how to retrieve user data.
Polyvore had this responsibility and let us down.
They included a link in the email to download user data and to opt out of providing SSENSE with user information but most users report those links as broken.
Users who have been able to retrieve data from Polyvore report that 'collections' and 'items' come back in an Excel spreadsheet with broken links to Polyvore which won't open.
Users report that the only helpful data they are able to download is their 'sets.'
This is something, but this is also nothing.
Loads of users were on Polyvore to write, roleplay, interact with friends, etc.
All of this is lost.
Users were not able to message the friends they had found in the 11 years Polyvore has been online. There was no chance to reach out to contacts to exchange information to get in contact outside of Polyvore.
Users have no access to the 'items' they have saved to Polyvore or the 'collections' they made.
I remember a long time ago, Polyvore floated the idea of auto deleting the oldest saved 'items' in a user's saved 'items' after a certain amount of time. The blowback was intense and Polyvore was heavily criticized by it's user base.
Polyvore promptly rolled back this decision and listened to its users.
I am so sad to see that same company do it's users so dirty today.
I joined Polyvore in middle school, as an awkward unsure kid in the middle of puberty just trying to find myself, my voice, my style. I used Polyvore for school projects and told my teachers about this cool new design platform.
As we can see on Twitter today, teachers were literally in the middle of using Polyvore with their students when it shut down. What now?
You couldn't even consider other business models or asking the community for help. Why didn't you float the idea of a pay-to-play model or putting a price on the app?
I stayed on Polyvore through high school, creating and expressing myself, learning new brands, new looks, new ways to style. I made friends, I learned from other user's creativity. I grew.
I sought refuge on Polyvore when growing up was weird, scary, and rough.
I stayed on Polyvore through college. I was busy but sometimes I was able to escape onto Polyvore, make collections and sets, I made digital mood boards and almost used Polyvore as a blog.
Before I created Bruised Knuckles, I used Polyvore. Polyvore was the beginning of it all for me.
Even in my post-grad life, I used Polyvore. I'd search items or use the platform for inspiration. I would scroll down my feed and absorb the creativity.
Polyvore sparked something in me, but unfortunately for Polyvore, that spark grew into a fire.
I can't end this story with a hopeful tidbit about another platform I suggest you use or tell you to spam @SSENSE and @Polyvore on Twitter to let them know how bad this fuck up is (although personally, I have been) and I can't tell you that enough signatures on that petition will make Polyvore come back.
I can't tell you any of that because this betrayal cuts deep. I supported Polyvore for 9 years. It feels like a 9 year relationship ending over an email and no way to even get my stuff back.
I used Polyvore on this website under the Fashion tab, I have a fucking Polyvore mug they sent to me. I'm mad.
And I learned, probably through Polyvore, that creativity is an outlet and that's why I'm writing this.
I'm sure SSENSE and Polyvore are hoping everyone will just shut up and it will all blow over and they'll get whatever information they wanted or the users will reluctantly come crawling back.
I hope with every fiber of my being that they're wrong. I hope the #Polyfam, as Polyvore so presumptuously called us, knows that as creatives we are valuable and we won't be treated as though we're not.
If you're coming from Polyvore, please comment your story on the website, tell the world about what you lost, don't let your story be deleted along with your work. Share why Polyvore was important to you, don't stay quiet.
The email from Polyvore read:
Dear Polyvore Community,
Above is Polyvore's download tool that you can find at https://account-update.polyvore.com/cgi/data-tool. I still haven't received anything back, but who knows.
Many users report not even receiving this email, and some are having difficulties logging in to change their password to opt out of sharing data with SSENSE.
It's a crapshoot.
Users have also had some luck using Wayback Machine http://archive.org/web/ , searching Google Images with "yourusername + Polyvore" or searching Pinterest for "yourusername + Polyvore" or their username alone. I have found some of my work but not the hundreds and hundreds of creations I spent 9 years making.
Disgruntled users are trying to find each other on Twitter or in a new Facebook group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/170182606908532/?multi_permalinks=170221000238026%2C170220396904753%2C170220373571422%2C170219476904845%2C170219383571521¬if_id=1522963613719510¬if_t=group_activity&ref=notif
Feel free to sign the petition here: https://www.change.org/p/former-polyvore-users-creative-minds-bring-back-polyvore?recruiter=126902320&utm_source=share_petition&utm_medium=twitter&utm_campaign=psf_combo_share_initial.nafta_milestone_share_ask_victory.control
Above are screenshots from an anonymous source's conversation with SSENSE about the acquisition. It seems SSENSE is quick to distance themselves from any responsibility for the chaos and lost work.
Feel free to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any more information.
What we're wearing.