The Fascination helps consumers and brands make sense of the crowded DTC world

Founded by ecommerce veterans David Wolfe and Matt Hayes, The Fascination is a platform to discover, research, & shop emerging DTC brands


February 8, 2021

In a world of seemingly infinite options, tech analyst Ben Thomspon says that value accrues to those that provide discovery and curation.

While he cites tech giants like Google (with search) and Facebook (with newsfeed) in his analysis, human-enabled curation is also clearly a very viable business model. 

One notable example is The Wirecutter, a consumer guide for electronics and gadgets that sold to the New York Times for $30m in 2016. 

For those trying to make sense of the proliferation of direct-to-consumer (DTC) brands, a new venture is just for you: The Fascination, which marries curation (a la The Wirecutter) along with a soon-to-come marketplace (a la Amazon) to buy goods from purpose-driven brands.  

The backstory 

Officially launched in December 2020, The Fascination was co-founded by David Wolfe and Matt Hayes, two founding members of DTC mattress brand Lessa Sleep (which reached $120m+ in annual sales). 

As veterans of the industry, the pair launched The Fascination to address key issues faced by:

  • Customers: Way too much choice, with no authoritative voice.  
  • Brands: Standing out in the crowded market is too pricey (ads on Facebook, Google Ads) or difficult to do (commoditized on Amazon). Further, it’s important to have 3rd-party validation or social proof.

How it works 

The Fascination has partnered with 100+ purpose-driven DTC brands (e.g, Allbirds, Haus) across a number of categories including fashion, home, health, beauty and accessories.

For each brand, The Fascination provides:

  • Badges: Which designate what values the brands stand for (e.g., “organic”, “ethically-source”) 
  • Brand alerts: Customers can subscribe to brands to receive the latest product updates and news
  • Editorial: The Fascination digs into the science (e.g., how a fabric is made) and soul (e.g., the brand’s story) of each brand and tells you what you need to know 

In our reading of American Giant’s entry, The Fascination provides a quick overview that brings life to the brand.  Details include an origin story for founder Bayard Winthrop as well as badges for “ethically sourced” and “Made in the USA”. 

As a quick primer, it was definitely useful.

In addition to providing a somewhat standardized look at DTC brands, The Fascination also has real-life product reviews. 

Here’s one for P.volve fitness equipment: 

The overviews and real-life reviews aren’t only to the customer’s benefit. Brands receive a media asset to share and that will rank in SEO. 

The Business Model

At present, The Fascination features products for its brand partners and monetizes via affiliate ads. 

The next phase: a marketplace. 

In detail, The Fascination is building a robust ecommerce bank-end that benefits all parties involved:

  • Customers can shop their favorite brands all in one place, receive exclusive offers and enjoy a seamless purchase experience (one cart)
  • Brands will benefit by being on a curated platform with the opportunity to cross-sell products that The Fascination can recommend based on the understanding of its customers 

And, of course, The Fascination will accrue a number of benefits; namely, as the one-stop shop for discovery and buying, it will own the customer data and relationship.

The Final Word

While The Fascination isn’t the first curation play out there — others include The Wirecutter, The Strategist, Buzzfeed, ThingTesting — the addition of a marketplace makes for some interesting possibilities (e.g., discounted bundling of DTC products that might not otherwise be offered together).

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