Fashion brands that count summer as their high season are investing in well-timed retail experiences.
For their part, Lilly Pulitzer and Vilebrequin have built out their brand worlds in fresh ways, leveraging summer-themed events and new retail locations.
On May 25, the colorful fashion brand Lilly Pulitzer opened a pop-up shop and outdoor space in Chicago featuring the Shift Shop, a curated assortment of shift dresses. Set up in The Cube pop-up space within the city’s Shops at Old Orchard, the three-month shop pays homage to the 60-year-old brand’s signature style. “The physical retail experience will always remain important, but it needs to change and stay fresh,” said Lilly Pulitzer CEO Michelle Kelly. “The fact that it was in Chicago in the summer timeframe in this transparent cube location gave us this chance to experiment with this curated assortment.”
The Chicago pop-up store is smaller than the brand’s average footprint, at about 1,200 square feet compared to 2,000, said Kelly. The Cube has been transformed into a cabana-like space with custom home decor complementing the Shift Shop, which is an idea plucked from the brand’s Palm Beach store. The outside space was built to let fans of the brand socialize and enjoy events pegged to summer events like the Summer Solstice.
“There are plenty of people in Chicago who don’t know the brand yet, so we wanted to give them the most immersive and authentic experience,” Kelly said. The brand chose Chicago as the location to expand its customer base in the city. The store will also be an opportunity to bring in influencers and fuel UGC around the brand. Oxford Industries, owners of Lilly Pulitzer, reported a 2022 full-year sales increase of 24% to $1.41 billion this March. Sales from Lilly Pulitzer flash sales were $54 million for the year, compared to $32 million in 2021.
Also this month, luxury swimwear brand Vilebrequin took over a private beach in Cannes, dubbed L‘Ondine, with an activation featuring custom outdoor furnishings and a restaurant experience. The activation has been in the works since 2019 and will run through the end of the year. Designed by interior designer Vincent Darré, the customized space includes indoor cabins, bar and dining areas, a sun terrace, sunbeds, beach concierges, and showering and changing facilities. With the Cannes Film Festival taking place this month, the brand used the beach to host dinners for Universal Film Studios, among others. The annual Festival typically attracts 3 million visitors.
“For 50 years, we’ve been thinking about how to behave at the beach, how to find the best fabric that remains elegant, and how to find patterns and designs,” said Roland Helory, CEO of Vilebrequin. “ Our whole brand universe can express itself in a beach club, so it was about finding a way to extend our territory and to have another way of expressing our know-how.” Vilebrequin does not disclose its finances.
Helory admitted that the activation is a big investment— however, the restaurant component could prove profitable for the brand. Vilebrequin plans to open 10-15 more beach clubs globally in exclusive locations over the next five years.
Both Lilly Pulitzer and Vilebrequin have strong print and color aesthetics that they have brought into their customer-facing summer experiences, making them instantly Instagrammable. Otherwise, they plan to rely on word of mouth to draw in customers. “If we can provide the right service, the right food, the fun and the unexpected, then people will spread the message,” Helory said.