Once owned by The Collected Group, the L.A.-born brands Joie and Current/Elliott, along with the Parisian brand Equipment, had their heyday in the 2000s. But like many brands, they struggled during the pandemic and, ultimately, their parent company went bankrupt in April 2021.
In July 2021, The Collected Group and all three brands were acquired by Sunrise Brands, the holding company that also acquired Rebecca Minkoff in February. Now, Sunrise is working to bring the three brands back to their former glory.
“The opportunity we recognized before our acquisition was that the brands could resonate again,” said Rachael Barnard, CEO of the ready-to-wear division of Sunrise Brands.
Barnard said the chief problem the three brands faced in recent years was trying to be everything to everyone.
“Each of the brands had such a strong identity that evolved over years,” she said. “But by trying to be everything to everyone, the brand equity that customers identified with had been diluted. Now, in collaboration with the Sunrise team, we are working to reestablish the brand DNA.”
All ready-to-wear women’s brands, Equipment is a more premium offering — its dresses sell for around $450 — while Joie is more mass-oriented, with dresses in the $200 range. Fourteen-year-old Current/Elliott is focused on premium women’s denim that’s priced around $150.
Barnard said Sunrise’s strategy is to make some changes to the product but to spend most of its energy on revamping the marketing strategies.
“Our interest in this acquisition was based primarily on each respective identity and our belief that the value was in reestablishing them,” Barnard said. “Unfortunately, the previous marketing was not doing this effectively or inspirationally. The story was not being told. We are now focused on understanding our core customer and giving her more of what she craves and presenting it in aspirational ways.”
For example, on the product side, Barnard said the brands are all moving toward more inclusive sizing, including expanded size ranges from 0X-4X and 14-28 waist size.
For marketing, Sunrise launched a joint loyalty program across the three brands last month. Additionally, there’s been a new emphasis on growing the three brands’ social audiences. For its part, Joie ran a summer sweepstakes for its 300,000 Instagram followers in June, asking them to tag friends and get them to follow the account for a chance to win a $1,000 wardrobe refresh. In addition to taking this organic approach, Sunrise Brands is leveraging paid advertising on social platforms and influencer seeding, the company said.
While the brands sell through retailers like Bloomingdale’s and Neiman Marcus, Barnard said the teams are aiming to grow the brands’ direct sales. Since the acquisition in July, that has been a success. According to Sunrise Brands, Joie’s e-commerce sales rose 137% in the first half of the year and the brand expects 65% DTC sales growth in the second half of the year. Equipment’s e-commerce sales grew 66% in the first half of the year and it’s forecasting 78% growth for the second half of the year.
The marketing focus is on customer retention. The emphasis on DTC sales growth and the loyalty program are both plays to create more loyal, repeat customers.
Even with a recession looming, Barnard said she’s confident that these brands can make a comeback.
“There appears to be some risk in the economy currently, but we feel that should serve as a reminder that we must manage our costs related to marketing and customer acquisition by better focusing those activities,” Barnard said. “If we do that correctly, it actually represents a great opportunity for us to accelerate our growth.”