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Big Plans for LittleMissMatched

Walking into the new LittleMissMatched headquarters here at 307 Seventh Avenue, it becomes clear this is a world that does, indeed, clash ? in a...

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NEW YORK — Walking into the new LittleMissMatched headquarters here at 307 Seventh Avenue, it becomes clear this is a world that does, indeed, clash — in a colorful, creative way.

This story first appeared in the April 7, 2008 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

It could be an office, as there are people sitting at desks and typing away on computers, but it could also easily be a large tween bedroom. There is a white dresser, scribbled all over with what looks like the work of a doodling child; a bed (with an interchangeable headboard) covered with bright polkadot and striped bedding that can be interchanged to create 184 different looks, and someone else’s desk is placed under a bunk bed. There are racks and racks of colorful mismatched socks, shoelaces, hair accessories, journals, pencils and toys on a wall. This is clearly the new home of LittleMissMatched, launched in San Francisco in 2004 by three partners — Arielle Eckstut, Jason Dorf and Jonah Staw — and seeking to build a brand based on bringing out the creative side of its customers.

The company, which started with the launch of mismatched socks sold in packs of three to encourage mixing and matching, has grown considerably over the past few years. In 2005, the founders expected to bring in $5 million in retail sales. By the close of 2007, they far surpassed that number — generating more than $25 million in retail sales volume.

Of course, LittleMissMatched’s product mix has also expanded. The firm now offers everything from socks and school supplies to furniture, bedding and books. The brand is sold in 3,000 stores (not including furniture retailers) including Macy’s, FAO Schwarz, J.C. Penney and Bed Bath & Beyond. For fall, the company will enter a whole new sector as it launches a full apparel line for women and girls.

“Since we started the company, we’ve had this vision to build it into a full lifestyle brand for tweens to express who she really is,” said Staw. “We may have started with socks, but we knew it would eventually become so much more than that.”

Staw said the focus of the brand has been broken down into three elements where different product categories fall — there’s her stuff, where Staw said they place apparel and accessories; her room, where there’s the bedroom furniture, decor and bedding, and her life, for publishing (two more books, “The Writer in Me” and “The Artist in Me,” will launch soon) and school supplies. So, Staw explained, the apparel was a natural next step.

Each piece in the apparel line has a dual purpose — there’s a T-shirt that comes with detachable long sleeves that can be mixed up and matched. There’s a super-long dress designed so the wearer can cut it to create a dress at the exact length she wants. The tags on the garments also will encourage the customer to create something out of the extra fabric, to make a scarf or maybe even a miniskirt. There also are hoodie dresses where the hood, sleeves and even the skirt zip off to create a variety of new looks. All of the apparel is designed and manufactured in-house through the company’s large facility in Iowa. The line wholesales from $15 to $80.

“This is really just the beginning of the apparel for us,” Staw said. “It’s a major investment and we see it growing into something really big.”

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