By  on March 25, 2010

Contemporary brand Milly is going ultramodern with the launch of e-commerce this week.

The label designed by Michelle Smith, which has a flagship in Tokyo and is sold in U.S. department and specialty stores, wants to use its new capability to learn more about its customer.

“We’re a niche firm,” said Andy Oshrin, Smith’s business partner and husband. “The most we’ve done is a few focus groups. Understanding the demographic data — for example, who shops for our products and how they feel about them — would be instrumental for us in terms of being able to expand our business. We’d use market research to understand more about our product. We’re essentially a wholesaler. We could learn from customers what’s great about a product and what’s not so great. It would help the advance of our retail stores.”

Oshrin said Milly has been “looking diligently for a New York store for the last 18 months. Right now, we’re very confident that we’ll sign a lease on Madison Avenue.”

Meanwhile, consumers can shop online for a wider selection than is available in department or specialty stores.

“We’re running it as a professional retail business,” Oshrin said of e-commerce. “As we learn more about our customer, we can add special products.”

Oshrin projected online sales of $1 million to $1.1 million in the first year, with business projected to double in the second year and again in the third year.

The online store will be flush with product from new launches such as jewelry and accessories this spring. For spring 2011, Milly plans to roll out handbags, small leather goods and leather accessories. The accessories unit will be run by Carol DiMaio-Lucas, a former president of Furla USA.

“You see the highest growth in e-commerce,” said Alison Bergen, manager of new business development at Milly, who was responsible for the Web site’s build-out.

The refreshed Web site has geometric designs as backgrounds, a theme that was apparent in Smith’s hosiery collaboration with Hue. Visitors to the site can shop by occasion — cocktails, office or weekend casual — or style — uptown girl, downtown chic or jet-setter.

Part of the integrated branded shopping experience includes Shop the Runway, with a video stream of Smith’s show seen along with descriptions of each look and a button to click on for more information. There’s also a link to Milly product specialist Kerry M. at, who promises to answer questions within 24 hours.

“Some of our more frequent customers will get early opportunities to buy special products with a preorder functionality,” Oshrin said.

The Web site has backstage images from Milly’s show, a section called Michelle’s Studio featuring the designer’s story, a description of her studio, the inspiration board for her latest collection and a Q&A with Smith.

Still to come is a Dressing Room function, where visitors can save items and e-mail them to friends. “Our marketing has been low key, really word of mouth,” Bergen said. That will change with Google ads and e-mails to Milly’s Facebook fan base. “We have so many great collaborations with Hue and Clinique. We want to celebrate those projects.”

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