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Clad has found its niche in contemporary luxury.
This story first appeared in the August 4, 2011 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
The new men’s e-commerce and style site, owned by J.C. Penney Co.’s Growth Brands Division, is slated for a mid-August launch and will offer brands ranging from Hugo Boss and John Varvatos to Billy Reid and Calvin Klein.
What sets the site apart is its collaboration with Esquire, which is producing a promotional “mini-magazine,” called the Clad Report, four times a year which will be inserted into the magazine and will also be available on both Esquire and Clad’s Web sites.
“Early this year we hired Seth Howard to act as a liaison between the Esquire editorial department and Clad,” said David Granger, editor in chief of Esquire. Howard “familiarized himself” with the most important fashion trends of the season, took that “intelligence and embedded himself into the Clad inventory” to interpret the trends for fall.
Esquire also helped create the editorial offerings on the Clad Web site in sections entitled “Damn Good Advice” as well as through the “Esquire’s Picks” sprinkled throughout.
Will Swillie, president of Clad, said the site will offer 40 percent sportswear, 10 percent tailored clothing and 16 percent shoes. The remainder will be furnishings and accessories such as shirts, ties, cuff links, watches and jewelry.
Other brands that will be featured at the launch include Michael Kors, Jack Spade, Rag & Bone, Cole Haan, Redwing, Vince, Seven for All Mankind, Citizens of Humanity, Joe’s Jeans, Hickey Freeman, Ben Sherman, Levi’s, Tumi, Malin + Goetz, Billy Jealousy and Kale Naturals.
The site will be full price except for traditional clearance periods, Swillie said.
He explained that when Growth Brands was formed last year and the decision was made to enter the e-commerce space, the company hired Bain & Co. to “see where the white space was.” The consultants said there was a void for a men’s-only, full-price e-commerce site — one that would appeal to men aged 24 to 54 who did not follow runway trends but still cared about how they looked. “He’s a guy’s guy,” Swillie added. “He’s watching ESPN and he thinks dressing is important, but he needs a little help.”
As a result, Clad will offer a proprietary fit technology, the Tapeless Tailor, that allows men to input what clothes they already own that they like and the site will offer suggestions for future purchases. Clad will also use Esquire’s recommendations to help customers coordinate outfits. “We’re building a virtual dressing room,” Swillie said. “Most other engines are based on what others have bought. But this is the equivalent of having a salesman in the room with you.”
Swillie said that in addition to promoting the site in Esquire, the company is planning a digital marketing strategy including banner ads and keyword searches on sites such as Facebook and LinkedIn.
“Magazines create desire and make recommendations, but then what do people do with it?” Granger asked. “We believe the next stage is for magazines to allow people to make purchases.”
Esquire tinkered with e-commerce before, but it was not especially successful. Last March, the company created the Esquire Collection of 25 essential items. But Granger said that because each item had its own bar code and directed the user to a different Web site, it was “unwieldy.” With Clad, readers will be directed to one site to make all their purchases.
He said Esquire and its parent company, Hearst Corp., will profit from the sales they drive to Clad. “If things go well, it will help Esquire’s bottom line,” he said without providing further details. “We are true partners.”
Growth Brand Division has a similar collaboration with Hearst’s Good Housekeeping and Redbook magazines for a Web site called Gifting Grace, an online giftware site.