The transition from a wholesaler to a direct-to-consumer e-commerce business model has become standard for many a fashion brand. But shutting down an entire wholesale market for an e-commerce-only strategy is a bold if not risky track. Unusual as it may be, it’s a strategy that Marc Daniels and Ricky Hendry of men’s contemporary line Isaora are trekking forward with.
Founded in 2009, the brand, known for its high-performance, fashion-forward aesthetic, has been carried in more than 150 stores including Barneys New York, Bloomingdale’s, Opening Ceremony and Lane Crawford, according to the partners. In 2012, Isaora was selected as one of 10 designers for the CFDA Fashion Incubator program.
“We’ve been thinking about this for quite a while,” said Hendry. “By not having a wholesale focus would enable us to drop our prices. We’d also be able to deliver when we wanted instead of being tied to a traditional timeline with retailers; it never made sense to me.”
Hendry said the company experimented with e-commerce in September of last year, launching a diffusion line, Isaora iO, exclusively online.
“It went really well after testing the waters and the business is growing beyond our expectations,” he said. “So well, in fact, that we knew this is what we wanted to do and it gave us a lot of confidence.”
The e-commerce-only model reduces prices by up to 40 percent. A sweat pant, for instance would have had a price range of $195 to $295 at retail, but will sell for $125 to $145 on the Web site. A classic Mackintosh hooded jacket will be priced at about $395 to $425.
A spring outerwear piece that is in development in Italy would have been priced around $1,500 at retail but will be sold online for $695.
In the short term, the brand will also be focused on building the editorial portion of its site to create a distinct voice, and has engaged a writer to revamp its blog. Stories will include evergreen features on specific on-brand tastemakers and other entries will home in on the history of fashion apparel. An entry, for instance, will focus on the legacy of a bomber jacket.
“Brands today are content creators — it’s all about engagement,” said Daniels. “The online platform allows us to do that. When we were going through the stores, unfortunately, it was difficult to tell your story or convey your message, even at the Barneys of the world. Brands are secondary to the stores and you lose that ability to tell your story. Going in-house really allows us to tell our stories.”
Although the brand is now focused on the online space, in the long term, the owners hope to eventually open a flagship.
“This doesn’t mean that a retail presence or brick-and-mortal isn’t critical,” said Hendry. “People will always love to touch clothes and try them on. And as much as people are getting more confident online, the physical presence is important.”