arielle-charnas-something-navy

Elevated basic.

This is the term superinfluencer Arielle Charnas used to describe her SomethingNavy brand, which will launch exclusively with Nordstrom in the fall with apparel, jewelry and accessories. The introduction of a stand-alone brand, named after her almost decade-old blog and handle she goes by on Instagram, follows a collaboration with the retailer’s private label brand Treasure & Bond last September, SomethingNavy x Treasure & Bond.

Typically, when used as an adjective, the word basic has a negative connotation. In the context of fashion, it implies someone is highly attuned to the trends, but doesn’t set them. Being called “basic” suggests a lack of sophistication or individuality.

But Charnas owns the term, even giving it a positive spin. She’s basic and she knows it.

This is why her 1.1 million Instagram followers love her — many of them have been waiting eagerly for Charnas to reveal the “big news” she’s been teasing for 11 days. On Feb. 15, a post on her Instagram Story read: “I have a very exciting trip in two weeks with very exciting news to share. Prob my most exciting news aside from my babies. Sorry to tease you but i’m just too excited. SOON SOON SOON!” Charnas has posted several more teasers since, and has fielded thousands of direct message responses in the process.

“It’s the basic girl but a little more elevated — chic, accessible, on-trend, feminine. We’re keeping in mind what most girls wear but we want them to feel like they’re in something that’s cooler and high-end. She wants to look cool, but she’s scared to wear a runway trend. They still want to look attractive and pretty and cute,” Charnas told WWD.

“I’ve tested ‘those kinds of looks’ — like my older sister-inspired looks. She’s high end and fashion [and a stylist]. I get a very specific reaction,” Charnas continued, referring to posts where she’s wearing pieces that are very “fashion” (think looks from street style fixtures Leandra Medine or Shiona Turini). “The post doesn’t get as much engagement as a post where I’m elevated basic and wearing black skinny jeans with a cool, studded black leather jacket with a white button-down. Because every girl can wear that and look cute. The other outfits they aren’t sure of.”

She knows what her followers (and now customers) want and has used social media as a platform to gain even more insight into what styles and categories will appeal to fans as she embarks on the next phase of growing her brand. On Sunday, she jetted off to Nordstrom’s headquarters in Seattle for the first big planning and design meetings. Come fall, the range will be carried in a yet to be determined amount of select doors and nordstrom.com. Charnas confirmed that prices will be in line with the Treasure & Bond collection’s accessible $49 to $199 price range.

The deepening of this partnership with Nordstrom isn’t surprising, given the success of the initial 30-style capsule collection of ready-to-wear, shoes and accessories she co-designed with the retailer. The line, which hit 52 Nordstrom doors and nordstrom.com Sept. 25, was said to have done over $1 million in sales on nordstrom.com in less than 24 hours.

A restocking took place in December, but it was clear that Charnas’ demand — and selling power — extended beyond a one-off collaboration.

So much so that Charnas just inked one of the largest blogger brand deals to date: a long-term licensing agreement with Nordstrom where Charnas has licensed her SomethingNavy brand and likeness to the retailer. Terms of the contract were not disclosed, but it’s said to be a multi-year partnership that will see a full rollout of the SomethingNavy brand. Nordstrom and Charnas declined to comment on details about the size of the deal.

For her, it’s the equivalent of striking blogger gold. The 30-year-old is able to bring her brand to life via a multicategory assortment with seasonal drops — all without any the headaches and logistical challenges entrepreneurs are faced with while in start-up mode.

For Nordstrom, an alliance with an influencer of Charnas’ caliber not only gives the retailer street cred with the Gen Z and millennials who follow her every move, but hopefully incentive to visit the department store IRL (or “in real life in internet speak).

“We are able to give our customers an exclusive new brand based on Arielle’s unique aesthetic. The brand will expand into additional categories each season, reinforcing our commitment to introduce exciting new product regularly,” said Jennifer Jackson Brown, president, Nordstrom Product Group. “The SomethingNavy x Treasure & Bond capsule collection we introduced in fall 2017 really resonated with our customers, and we could not be more thrilled to welcome her back to Nordstrom.”

It’s the first project of its kind for the retailer. In the past, Olivia Palermo and Carolina Issa collaborated on one-off capsule collections that lived within existing Nordstrom private label brands Chelsea 28 and Nordstrom Signature, respectively. But SomethingNavy is the most ambitious influencer endeavor Nordstrom’s embarked on to date. Unlike the collection with Treasure & Bond, which was merely a collaboration, this venture is a sizable, multiyear investment in building a brand around the likeness of an influencer. SomethingNavy is a stand-alone brand; it just happens to live under the Nordstrom umbrella.

Even though the launch is still about seven months out, Charnas wanted to let followers know now so they could follow her throughout the design process. She also plans to let her followers be involved in the journey this time via crowdsourcing their opinions on colors or styles with the polling functionality on Instagram Stories.

In the meantime, she will take a step back in terms of sponsorships and on-off jobs she does with brands and other retailers. Charnas will maintain a few long-term partnerships with beauty brands, including a yearlong brand ambassadorship with skin-care line Dr. Brandt. This will allow her to “focus on everything about my brand” while simultaneously give her more freedom with content because of less sponsored post obligations.

Similar to the first project with Nordstrom, Charnas maintained this collection will take on “what I wear everyone single day,” from “great sweaters, jeans and really cool blouses” to button-downs, dresses and blazers. Also in line with last year’s capsule which ranged from sizes XXS to XXL, SomethingNavy will offer sizes ranging from 00 to 18.

“I’m able to do what I can do and they can execute it,” Charnas said when asked why she opted for the licensing route to establish the SomethingNavy brand.

It’s a smart choice for someone who quickly wants to get their business off the ground. The partnership is a fast track to the retail infrastructure that could take years, if not decades, to build if she were to start a company independently. A deal of this kind presents Charnas with access to a leading department store’s operational facilities, from production to manufacturing, as well as the support of an established design team to help churn out seasonal collections.

The exact number of collections that will be produced per year hasn’t been decided, but it’s likely that it could range anywhere from four to six, inclusive of capsules within the main offerings. In addition to holiday offerings, these capsules will serve as a vehicle to introduce additional categories such as loungewear, lingerie or children’s clothing.

The upside here is that Charnas has a built-in distribution at Nordstrom; the downside is that she has a built-in distribution with Nordstrom. Which means that for however long the terms of the agreement are, SomethingNavy’s distribution could only grow as big as the door count she’s carried in. Once her contract is up, though, Charnas gets free reign to do whatever she pleases with the brand, which will hopefully lead to building a strong direct business.

So for all the support that linking up with a leading department store affords Charnas, she has a big decision once the contract is up: does she enter into another licensing deal (with Nordstrom or another party) or does she set off on the laborious process of creating her brand independently?

“My goal is to be the next Tory Burch. I love her story. When you see something and you can look at it and be like, ‘This is Tory Burch.’ I love that. I love that distinction between her and other companies,” Charnas said, adding that freestanding stores are “100 percent” in her future. “I liked how she branched out. The way she rolled out her collations were chic and effortless and classic and people wanted to go and buy it.”

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