LONDON — It used to be that emerging designers and labels would have to wait years before they had deep enough pockets to open a stand-alone store or the right sales volumes to secure a shop-in-shop. Now, many will be able to do it with a mouse click through the new Web site Avenue32.com.
The site, which goes live in late November, offers designers and brands a platform to create their own virtual shop. It also takes care of back office work such as warehousing, logistics, and worldwide delivery.
“I know how difficult it can be for designers to communicate their brands online. And so much of online fashion today is increasingly commercial,” said Roberta Benteler, the founder and managing director. “We’re offering them the chance to have their own retail outlet on a multibrand platform.”
The nearly 50 brands that have already signed up range from established names such as Aquascutum, Lacoste and Emanuel Ungaro, to smaller, edgier brands such as Felder Felder, Katie Hillier, Todd Lynn, Hannah Martin and Cooperative Designs.
Erin Mullaney, previously buying director at Browns in London, is fashion and brand director, while Maya Singer of Style.com is the creative director at large.
The designers choose the merchandise they want to sell and fix their own retail prices in euros, pounds and dollars. Designers are able to personalize their shops with such elements as campaign imagery and videos. The site, meanwhile, holds stock in its London warehouse, photographs the merchandise, and takes care of marketing and editorial.
Avenue 32, whose name is inspired by the 3-D element of a brick-and-mortar shop experience and the 2-D one of an online store, will also launch an online magazine, blogs and have a social media dimension. A formal launch event will take place during London Fashion Week in February. It is promising same-day delivery in London, and will ship goods worldwide. At the end of the season, designers can opt to take unsold stock back, or let the site deal with the clearance.
Avenue 32 is backed by Germany’s family owned Benteler Group, which produces steel tubes, components and systems for the automotive industry.
Benteler, who spent her career in private equity and had always wanted to work in fashion, declined to give the specifics of the business model, but said the designers’ cut of the final sale would be more favorable to them than the traditional wholesale model.
Although the site holds and distributes the merchandise from its warehouse, it does not buy it like some traditional retailers would. Mullaney will be working closely with the designers on the sales and merchandising.
“We’re really looking for partnerships with the designers, and we also want to be able to educate them about who their customers are. We see this as a collaboration,” Benteler said.
Going forward, Mullaney said the site would be looking to stock a diverse mix of brands and merchandise — ranging from women’s ready-to-wear to unisex gifts to fine and costume jewelry. She also said that labels would be encouraged to offer a broad range of products they make so that consumers can fully experience the brand.
“And our platform is flexible. We’re not restricted by budgets and we can take merchandise shipments at any time during the season,” she said.
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