Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen are going digital with their newest fashion venture.
In July, the entrepreneurs will launch StyleMint.com, in partnership with Santa Monica, Calif.-based BeachMint Inc., a company headed by Josh Berman, one of the original founders of MySpace.
This story first appeared in the April 7, 2011 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
StyleMint will meld e-commerce and social media platforms to offer consumers a personalized shopping experience, based on a monthly opt-out model, similar to book-, music- and wine-of-the-month clubs. Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen will help design and merchandise the offerings — starting with a collection of women’s fashion T-shirts retailing for $29.99 — as well as create regular videos for the site.
“Online commerce is the perfect medium for us to create a new brand that is as much about the clothing as it is about the customer experience,” said Ashley Olsen, who was in Seattle with her twin sister for a product knowledge seminar and an in-store appearance at Nordstrom scheduled for today. “BeachMint is the ideal partner, as they share our vision for the brand and have the resources and talent to execute it.”
StyleMint is the second fashion enterprise for BeachMint, which first launched in October with JewelMint.com, a jewelry-of-the-month club created in partnership with actress Kate Bosworth and her stylist, Cher Coulter. That site sells jewelry at $29.99 an item, also via monthly personalized recommendations. Sales have “exceeded all our expectations,” said Berman, chief executive officer of BeachMint.
“BeachMint understands how online shopping is evolving and the importance of creating an authentic relationship between designer and customer,” said Mary-Kate Olsen, who, with her sister, also founded and designs The Row, Elizabeth and James, Textile Elizabeth and James and Olsenboye. “With Stylemint.com, Ashley and I have created an online experience reflecting our love of style and allowing us to engage with our customers directly, which is an inspiring new way for us to think and create as designers.”
Both StyleMint and JewelMint have shoppers register as members and take short style quizzes to tailor monthly purchase suggestions, using predictive algorithms in the same mold as music sites like Pandora’s. As consumers buy items each month, the technology continually fine-tunes its pitches. Subscribers can use an integrated feature with Facebook and Twitter to garner opinions from friends on potential purchases.
For the first StyleMint collection, available in July, there will be eight styles of cotton/Modal Ts, including classic crewnecks, V-necks, a relaxed Henley and a wedge. Each style will be available in different colors, such as white, heather gray, cream, navy, pale blue and a striped version. Offerings may expand into knits and sweaters down the road, said Jill Collage, president of Dualstar Entertainment Group, the brand management company owned by the Olsens that oversees their various businesses and assets.
“Ashley and Mary-Kate were reviewing where we are with all our brands and we felt there was such a huge opportunity online,” added Collage of this latest project. “We feel like these monthly clubs are the wave of the future. Ashley and Mary-Kate really love connecting with the consumer online and being able to get feedback on the product and content of the site so quickly. They don’t go on camera often, so that will be special for this site. The consumer will be able to see how dedicated they are to the product. It’s all about the quality and fit and the material of these T-shirts.”
The Olsens aren’t the only pop culture phenomenon trading in this space. Kim Kardashian signed on as the celebrity co-founder of ShoeDazzle.com in 2009, a shoe-of-the-month club created by Brian Lee, co-founder of LegalZoom.com. The site has raised more than $20 million in start-up funding from Lightspeed Venture Partners and Polaris Venture Partners.
Unlike Kardashian, however, Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen have deftly built a respected portfolio of fashion brands, constructed from equal parts business savvy, tabloid fame and genuine design talent — capped by their nomination last month for a CFDA Swarovski award for new design talent in women’s wear.
The duo launched The Row as a designer label in 2007, and it is now carried at more than 70 top stores, including Bergdorf Goodman, Barneys New York, Maxfield and Lane Crawford. The Row has grown to include men’s wear, sunglasses and handbags.
Also in 2007, the Olsens launched the contemporary Elizabeth and James label, adding the denim-oriented Textile Elizabeth and James offshoot last spring. The lines are now carried in Nordstrom, Saks Fifth Avenue, Neiman Marcus and specialty retailers in more than 35 countries.
In February 2010, the sisters introduced Olsenboye in an exclusive deal with J.C. Penney, catering to the department store’s juniors customer, and the brand is now in 600 stores around the U.S.
It’s those blue-chip fashion cre Berman and Dualstar Entertainment Group declined to provide details of their deal, but Berman said it includes a revenue-sharing component with the Olsens.
Berman launched BeachMint last June with partner Diego Berdakin, also a veteran of MySpace. The two have raised $15 million in seed money from two rounds of funding with venture capital funds New Enterprise Associates, Anthem Venture Partners, Trinity Ventures and Stanford University.
BeachMint has tapped Vernon, Calif.-based Jaya Apparel Group to produce the StyleMint T-shirts. Jaya Apparel Group is the license partner for Elizabeth and James and Textile Elizabeth and James, and also manufactures the Olsenboye line for J.C. Penney. The company, headed and owned by Jane Siskin, was previously known as L’Koral Industries.
The jewelry line for JewelMint is manufactured by L.A.-based Lucas Design International.
BeachMint expects to launch several new sites in the next two years and is exploring opportunities in the beauty, footwear, home and wellness categories, said Berman.