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Westward Leaning is betting on Olivia Palermo’s selling power.

This story first appeared in the June 6, 2014 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Editorial coverage of the 28-year-old, front-row regular and former reality star wearing Westward Leaning sunglasses has spurred more sales for the company’s e-commerce site than shots of much bigger stars — Justin Bieber, Charlize Theron or Jessica Alba — sporting the brand.

And today, the company will capitalize on that trend and release an eight-style collaboration designed in partnership with Palermo that will be sold for $210 a pair exclusively at

“Keyword searches featuring Olivia or some derivative of her name are the only individual-specific keywords in the top tier of revenue-driving organic searches related to Westward Leaning,” cofounder Robert Denning told WWD. “No other person makes it into the top echelon, [or] has the kind of conversion power that Olivia has. When Justin Bieber and Selena Gomez broke up, he left wearing the pair of sunglasses we’d gifted Selena. I thought it would lead to a huge spike in sales, but didn’t move the dial at all.”

The collaboration with Palermo includes black, tortoiseshell, frosted white and frosted gray translucent frames with either faux sea glass or blackened redwood inlay on the temples. All styles have tarnished gold, mirrored lenses.

Palermo said “gold is the new tan” and noted the collection was striving to be “elegant, cool and not too in-your-face.”

Westward Leaning launched as an e-tail site in March 2012 with the intent of building a direct-to-consumer business. But interest from Barneys New York, Opening Ceremony,, and Urban Outfitters — all of which now carry the brand — caused the company to change course, Denning said. The eyewear is carried in more than 70 doors worldwide, up from 25 in November, and more than half of the company’s sales now come from wholesale accounts.

“If I had my way, it would have always stayed as an online business,” Denning said. “I would make sure the tissue paper was folded exactly how I wanted to. But you can’t reach the audience you want. A lot of pure-play e-commerce startups are starting to realize that this snobby attitude toward ‘generic retail’ is starting to change. It’s a bias and more and more brands are realizing what we’ve realized. There is this huge segment of the customer base that is untapped if you don’t move beyond your own Web site.”

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