The new direct-to-consumer fashion label JNSQ aims to spare consumers of any guesswork.
As a wholly owned subsidiary of the Shein Group, a $2 billion online retail operation with headquarters in Hong Kong, the new direct-to-consumer JSNQ business is meant to be presented to shoppers as an entity unto itself. JNSQ is rooted in Los Angeles and focuses on elevated sportswear.
The brand’s formal name Je Ne Sais Quoi and the collection are meant to pay homage to effortless French style. During a recent preview of JNSQ in New York, chief executive officer and founder Malcolm Yam explained, “They don’t try too hard. That image is what we’re trying to share with the customer. You don’t have to try too hard to be someone else. Be yourself and you will be very comfortable. When you learn this, you don’t have to worry too much.”
The company is focusing on small, limited-edition runs. Instead of offering mega-inventories of various styles, the company plans to offer as few as 50. By focusing on an on-demand production model, JNSQ will reduce its carbon footprint. That approach is also designed to condition shoppers to buy what appeals to them right away for fear of missing out. In addition, new products will continually be introduced, encouraging shoppers to visit the direct-to-consumer site frequently.
In between showing such styles as a floaty polka-dot blouse and white eyelet dress, Yam, spoke of the brand’s slow-and-steady approach to growth. He said, “We don’t want to feed the monster and become too big overnight. We want to be patient so the brand has its own independence and we keep our own pace. We have to make sure that every step we make is correct. What matters to the customer is that we deliver the best quality product.”
Yam previously served as senior marketing director at the Shein Group. Now focused on JNSQ, he divides his time between Los Angeles and China. But he emphasized how JNSQ will debut solely in the U.S. “Fast fashion gets stale right away. They have to have profit margins, so they [sometimes] source their products from Third World countries to lower manufacturing costs from the fabric side and the labor side,” said Yam, adding that mass retailers can cause considerable environmental damage by discarding acids into water resources, which leads to pollution.
Fast fashion also requires scaling up large enough to lower costs but sell-throughs are not a sure thing, Yam said. “It is the basic theory of economics. On the other hand, fashion is not that predictable so the customers’ preferences aren’t that predictable. You think you’re going to sell this product, but maybe that’s not going to happen.”
When companies commit to huge manufacturing for predictions that don’t pan out, brands are left with the excess inventory, he added. “We all read about these huge brands burning their [excess] clothes, but at the same time they are still making more. That does not make any sense.”
With JNSQ, Yam said, “Our goal is to get to no-waste production so that everything we manufacture sells out and just goes to the customers’ hands rather than to the trash. We only stock 30 to 50 pieces per style. What we’re trying to do is to always bring customers new things.”
JNSQ plans to spend about $1 million to advertise, with social media platforms Instagram and Facebook being key areas. Visitors to the site will also be able to trace where each item comes from. Mulberry silk, cupro (regenerated cellulose fiber derived from cotton linter) and Pima cotton are among the fabrics that are being used, with blouses and dresses being among the specialties. Prices range from $50 to $150; most options are between $80 to $100. Blouses are $80 to $100 and dresses are in the $100 range.
Shoppers can also sign up for JNSQ’s membership program, which will give members first dibs on newly released items before they are widely available to the general public. Members will receive other perks, such as special events. “We give them the chance first to get involved and to get to know us. They will have the chance to get early access to items and to get exclusive sales,” Yam said. “We actually take advice and learn from customers. We’re soliciting their advice and we will react.”