For fashion and beauty companies, a strong point of view is necessary to cut through the noise of today’s crowded markets. But at the same time, as digital changes the game at an increasingly rapid pace, constant evolution is required. So, to what extent can a company modify its stance without abandoning its core values and the customers who got it off the ground?
This week, I met with multiple brand founders who talked about their strategies for product expansion. A popular viewpoint: To shift gears, you need to build a new brand.
In the last two years, since launching Cinq à Sept — a “cool,” event-focused contemporary apparel line named for its peak wear period of 5 to 7 p.m. — fashion industry veteran Jane Siskin has debuted sub-brand Tous les Jours, to bring the brand’s aesthetic to everyday wear, and Likely, an Instagram-ready dress line with a younger feel and a lower price point. She’s currently eying the footwear category, driven by the white space for truly unique styles. “Retailers are hungry for new,” she said.
Paula Nakios, founder of 20-year-old Lilla P, a line of elevated basics sold in specialty stores, said she launched Leo & Sage in 2015 to tap into emerging industry trends without pulling out of boutiques and, as she saw it, starting from scratch. Leo & Sage pieces, produced in small runs and sold direct to consumer, are comparatively fashion-forward.
It would seem that brands purposely kicking off with a narrow focus and minimal product are making it hard on themselves. But look at the success of Glossier and Everlane, which launched with four products in 2014 and one T-shirt in 2011, respectively. Glossier’s e-commerce site now has 40 options to add to cart. Everlane has 12 product categories for women alone.
To note: Everlane’s growth trajectory to date has not gone without question. For one, owner Michael Preysman was called out for opening a brick-and-mortar store after vowing his digitally native brand would never go there. And, though the brand may still be “trying to create the best products possible, one at a time,” it’s rolling them out at an increasingly rapid pace: In the last month, it’s released 9 styles, including the Cheeky jean, two pairs of shoes and a variety of lightweight spring tops. In February, it was averaging six launches per month. Shoppers who appreciate it for its lack of choice overload may soon be turned off.
Playa Beauty, an LA-based hair company by Vogue alum Shelby Wild, launched last year with five products, including a sea salt spray and a dry shampoo. “Just the essentials,” said Wild. “We think of it as voluntary simplicity.”
She plans to add two products to the line this fall. Early next week, the line will launch on Sephora.com, and it will hit 131 Sephora stores in August.
A narrow focus can work, and of course, growth is good. But, more than ever, maintaining a strong identity is key. You’ve got to know your brand and your customer. Or build your customer into your brand — it’s worked for Glossier.
Betty: What makes a collaboration work?
Tracy Margolies, chief merchant at Saks Fifth Avenue:
Outside of willingness to cooperate and to coordinate with your partner, the best — and the most successful — collaborations are ones built with a strategically aligned foundation with clear expectations, as well as ones that embody a 360-degree approach. Saks Fifth Avenue often partners with brands to launch exclusive capsule collections, among many other initiatives, and we find integrating activations and consistent messaging into our digital, social, press, visual and marketing collateral — both in-store and beyond- — yields an impactful outcome. Today, clients have thousands of ways to access information; utilizing your full platform will generate the best results.
Sean Barron, co-founder of Re/Done:
A collaboration typically works when there is a natural chemistry between the brands; equally as important is that there is a connection between the creative teams . We never approach collaborations from a revenue perspective — we see them as a way to speak to and connect with other like-minded communities. The collaboration must also be mutually beneficial, rather than one-sided.
Frances Webster, COO at Walrus:
Collaboration works when an agency can act as a true extension of a brand/company’s marketing team. And, in order to achieve this level of partnership, you have to win their trust, which only happens once you prove you truly understand how their business works, the challenges they face both internally and externally, and how they make money (sounds obvious, but it’s important). Marketers are faced with an incredibly complex communications landscape and are looking for trusted advisors who they can work hand in hand with to drive their business forward.
This week, Aday co-founders Nina Faulhaber and Meg He visited the Glossy+podcast to discuss their mission to change consumers’ shopping habits, their recent round of funding from investors including H&M and how they plan to expand their apparel business while maintaining that less is more.
Porter editor-in-chief Lucy Yeomans joined Hilary Milnes on the Glossy Podcast to discuss why Net-a-Porter considers content and commerce an integral part of both its marketing and merchandising strategies, how fashion media has evolved and why a cohesive brand voice is so important.
“The industry is moving very fast, because the customer is moving very fast. And young, emerging brands, no matter the price point, can achieve an unbelievable level of desirability based on digital influence alone.”
-Monica Arnaudo, svp of merchandising at Ulta Beauty, in How Ulta Beauty evolved its merchandising strategy to compete in a crowded market