Dagne Dover is the latest online DTC brand to make a concerted push into the physical retail space.
The brand, like many of its digital-first counterparts, has taken to New York’s fashionable Soho neighborhood for a pop-up to showcase its latest collection of handbags and accessories. Eventually, if things go well, the brand is hoping to make this pop-up permanent as its first brick-and-mortar retail store.
“We launched the business without the intention of going offline,” said Jessy Dover, creative director and co-founder of Dagne Dover. “It’s smart and less expensive and less resource-draining for a new brand. But what we realized through our social network is that our customer really wants to see things in person. Seeing something on a flat, two-dimensional screen is not the same. When we realized that, that’s when we decided to have our first pop-up. We realized we needed to bring brick-and-mortar into our strategy in a big way.”
On a tour of the pop-up prior to its opening on Monday, Dover spoke of the 5-year-old brand’s ambitions to branch out into physical retail and the overarching strategy of its brick-and-mortar approach: First and foremost, it’s taking careful consideration of the pros and cons, and a cautious eye toward overextension.
“Slow and steady wins the race,” Dover said. “We raise patient capital which is a lot different than some retailers. There are some of these huge startups that come out of nowhere, and all of a sudden, they’re huge and they have a bunch of stories. We didn’t want to go that route.
“Product development cycle takes a long time for us — usually 12 months. We need a lot of time to create things to our standard of quality. The only way to speed things up is to skip steps, and we are not comfortable with that. That’s why we like to dip our toes. It’s less risky, but also we have time. We don’t need to race to the finish line.”
Dagne Dover’s extension into offline commerce started as many online-only brands do: through a partnership with a third-party retailer. The brand has sold small selections of pieces through Nordstrom’s online store in the past. Next month, it will begin selling its handbags in select Nordstrom brick-and-mortar stores, giving the brand another test of its potential for physical retail. Nordstrom has made something of a mission to give online DTC brands their first taste of offline retail, as it has done with brands like The Arrivals and Greats.
Dagne Dover has raised more than $2 million worth of funding in the five years since it was founded, from investors like Dwight Funding, Chasella and Kima Ventures. Two years ago, the brand launched its first pop-up: a short run in Soho lasting just for the month of November. Its latest effort is meant to last a lot longer.
Dagne Dover has been taking the slow and steady approach to building its brand, and keeping the focus on the product. For the new collection, Dover went for “non-neutral neutrals,” the sort of muted pastels that serve the same goal as a neutral without being the same boring grays and beiges that the word usually signifies. From here, the brand is ramping up its marketing efforts in the New York area, including its first-ever subway banner ads, in order to drive hype and traffic to the Soho pop-up.
Dagne Dover is in good company when it comes to DTC brands pushing into the offline retail space. As inspirations for how to make this transition successfully, Dover cites Everlane, the oft-mentioned Warby Parker and Outdoor Voices.
“So many DTC brands are doing a great job of this because they are willing to redefine what a successful path is based on their customer needs and their brand values,” Dover said.
Ultimately, Dagne Dover’s offline ambitions are built on long conversations with its customers. Focus groups, surveys and meeting customers in person have all played a role in the decision to pursue brick-and-mortar. Dagne Dover’s ambitions are a testament to the importance of in-store for building an intimate relationship with customers. According to Dover, the desire to connect more with customers is one of the key motivating factors for its current path.
“We want people to meet us in person,” she said. “It’s like online dating. When you see something in person, it’s not always what it seemed online.”