Do people value top end craftsmen-ship or will they buy anything with a logo on it?
We all know that markups in luxury fashion can be ridiculously high. The journey from the factory to floor, gets items to be priced at higher than they cost.
Now E-commerce site Italic is betting that removing the branding and the mark-up will prove a hit with consumers. A big bet indeed!
The start-up’s members-only marketplace, which launched last Thursday, allows manufacturers that create products for luxury brands to sell directly to consumers without the LOGOs adding markups. Shoppers who pay a $120 annual membership fee can choose from a selection of unbranded luxury goods, from bags and wallets to prescription eyewear and leather jackets, produced by the same factories that count names like Prada, Givenchy, Celine and Burberry among their clients.
The company has raised $13 million in funding, from various top end investors. Over 100,000 people joined a waiting list to be notified when membership opens, with signups initially limited to the US, said company founder Jeremy Cai.
Upon launching, the platform will have nearly 60 styles live on the site, with a view to double this number by the end of the year. However, customers won’t find unbranded versions of the Gucci Dionysus bag or any of the latest Celine creations. All products sold on Italic will be unique and exclusive to the platform to avoid infringing on brands’ intellectual property / copyrighted designs.
The start-up joins a growing number of brands, including Everlane and Warby Parker, which provide a premium-feeling, minimally branded product at relatively affordable prices. Within the luxury sector, high-end retailers, including Mr Porter, Joseph and MatchesFashion, are expanding their private label collections, which tend to be priced below standard luxury fare.
Italic goes one step further, selling items that lack even the private label branding. The marketplace will instead focus on providing the infrastructure — from marketing, design and warehousing to customer support — to enable manufacturers to sell products directly. The company will take a commission on sales.
“We essentially do everything that brands do and more, but we do it for the manufacturers,” Cai said.
For example, Italic’s merchandising team will work with factories that have product and pattern libraries to tweak existing designs so they don’t mimic products already on the market. Italic also has two designers, alumni of Armani and Calvin Klein, to work with manufacturers that don’t have in-house creative teams.
“We are very careful about every single product that we sell being originally designed, you won’t find an exact product like it in the market,” Cai said. “We want breadth and coverage of a lot of different styles.”
Branding can be a powerful tool, especially in a sector like luxury, where purchases are emotional rather than practical. That’s especially true for “statement” products, like handbags.
“People buy branded products to be reassured of the quality and style of the item and also for their projected image: they somehow communicate to other people the style, sophistication and preferences of their owner,” said Mario Ortelli, managing partner of luxury advisors Ortelli & Co. “You want to feel and show that you are part of the brand story.”
But Cai doesn’t anticipate the manufacturers on Italic’s marketplace competing head to head with luxury brands.
“For a person who is going to buy a Gucci bag, we are never going to win them over with unbranded product,” he said. “That doesn’t mean in some avenue of their life, they wouldn’t be open to switching up their sheets or maybe a shirt, or a leather jacket, where they actually don’t like a logo on there.”
As well as geographical expansion and international shipping, the platform’s short term goals include expanding into product categories like activewear and beauty. The focus will remain on luxury, Cai said.
“The reason we want to start in luxury is because we can say to the customer: we can make premium product effectively and replace a lot of your aspirational shopping,” he said.
Calvin Klein is closing down its luxury collection business, closing its offices in Milan and making staff redundant in New York, according to a source. Michelle Kessler-Sanders, the president of the 205W39NYC ready-to-wear business, will leave the company in June 2019. Overall, about 100 people, or 1 percent of PVH's global workforce, will be affected.
After Calvin Klein parted ways with chief creative officer Raf Simons at the end of 2018, they said it was rethinking its approach to the luxury market, on a strategy that would “[offer] an unexpected mix of influences and moving at an accelerated pace."
In January, it was announced that the brand would close its 654 Madison Avenue flagship store, which Simons renovated in 2017, in addition to other changes, some of which came to fruition very soon.
The brand’s sales come from their underwear and denim lines, much of which is produced by third-party licensing partners. But chief executive Steve Shiffman still plans to develop what the source called "aspirational" products. The search for a new design director to lead that effort continues, but it's presumed that the designer won’t be as high profile as Simons.
The two top editors of Vogue, Phyllis Posnick, the executive fashion editor of Vogue stepped down alongside fashion director Tonne Goodman last week. They are considered the two most recognisable faces at any fashion show in New York.
It was announced by Anna Wintour, the editor of Vogue, that both Phyllis and Tonne will leave their staff positions and become contributing editors.
The position of fashion director will be taken up by Virginia Smith.
Publishers, Beauty of Fashion report, Sephora are organising an event for the retailer’s most dedicated customers to interact with their prized beauty brands. The event will be called Sephoria House Of Beauty, and will take place on October 21st-22nd in LA with installations from over 50 brands for consumers charged between $100 and $500 to explore and shop.
While Sephora cannot confirm which brands will participate in Sephoria, the retailer will likely draw on the many prestige brands in its portfolio, especially the LVMH-owned ones such as Rihanna’s Fenty Beauty. Sephora is joining a multitude of retailers in creating experiences for customers that go beyond shopping in a conventional store. Sephoria will feature a range of set-ups around the "house" theme, including a kitchen where consumers can “play with ingredient-based skincare,” and a laundry room that is the backdrop for cleansers. When it comes to product, Sephoria’s emphasis will be on limited-edition elements such as exclusive colours, packaging design and personalisation, rather than sales. Yeh said the company doesn’t want the event to overlap with the in-store experience.
The goal with Sephoria is to build community and give customers a fun, interactive experience — “lots of juicy experiences that she’s can snap and share and wow her social community with,” said Deborah Yeh, senior vice president of marketing and brand at Sephora. “We’ve been dreaming about something like this for awhile.
Sephora generated between $4.4 billion and $4.9 billion in sales in 2016, according to Coresight Research (LVMH does not break out Sephora's financials).