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Gilt Groupe Gives Brian Atwood a New Launch Pad

With the help of its "shop" platform, Web site will debut the designer's first capsule collection of handbags on Wednesday.

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About a year-and-a-half ago, four-year-old luxury flash site Gilt.com stumbled on a new business opportunity.

After being approached by a host of designers looking to launch capsule collections that would extend their brands, Gilt Groupe realized it could capitalize on its e-commerce model to grow its own brand. The company developed full-price, exclusive, curated offerings that remain on its Web site for longer than 36 hours — the standard time period for a flash sale.

“We thought this was a great idea,” said Jyothi Rao, general manager of Gilt’s women’s division. “It’s very hard for a smaller brand to buy that type of media.”

While Gilt has launched exclusives with big names like Helmut Lang and Kate Spade, Rao is referring to the company’s ability to put emerging brands in the spotlight.

“I do see this becoming a larger part of what we do going forward, but our approach is that it has to be the right collaboration, the right partnership, the right product,” she said. “We really want to give our customers access to exclusive product. It’s about creating special events for them, and I think brands more and more are seeing the value of marketing to a membership base like this.”

Gilt’s newest offering, an exclusive capsule collection of Brian Atwood spring handbags, fits Rao’s criteria. Set to hit its virtual stores at noon Wednesday, Atwood’s collection, comprised of four styles, will remain on Gilt’s site through Sunday.

“This is our first handbag collection. We’re really selective about who we get involved with,” Atwood told WWD. “You have this huge audience. It makes it more exciting.”

Traditionally a footwear designer, Atwood’s foray into bags has materialized into a colorful collection of snakeskin clutches and hard-cased minaudières that mix tortoise shell, resin and metal inlay.

“They are not inexpensive,” said the designer, who noted the collection’s $1,050 to $1,795 price tags, “but they are gorgeous.”

Atwood hinted that a small men’s capsule collection of shoes is in the works, as well as a line of handbags under his B Brian Atwood label, which is licensed to The Jones Group.

“This collaboration is part of a broader relationship with Brian,” said Gilt’s Rao. “Who knows where his brand will expand to next?”

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