Introduced nearly two years ago, the direct-to-consumer business relies largely on trunk shows hosted by stylists in their homes or in art gallery spaces. Designed to be a shopping experience rooted in fashion, friends, food and fun — the four pillars Rose is after in any experience — Pearl centers on at-home shopping events, which make them more social and friendly. Guests are offered signature cocktails designed to accent each season’s collection. Rose is known to say, “Nothing says chic like matching your drink to your dress, and your dress to your table.” Along with “cute food,” guests are offered coordinating napkins, which they could also purchase for their own entertaining, should they aspire to live up to Rose’s adage.
Entertaining is often an undercurrent with Rose, who routinely gives attendees at her fashion shows baked goods that she made herself. Having published “Pret-a-Party: Great Ideas for Good Times and Creative Entertaining,” she said a second book is on her “to-tackle list.“ True to her fashion-food-and-fun ethos, Rose has hosted a dinner for her team of stylists to showcase the collection and offer training. Launched nearly two years ago, Pearl is more affordable and casual than her namesake ready-to-wear. Shoppers aren’t just lacking the personal connection of shopping in stores, but also online, Rose said. “Yes, you like sitting at home at night, having a glass of wine and ordering your clothes. But where is that social connection that you used to have with shopping and in being with your girlfriends?”
Starting with a team of 10 stylists, Pearl by Lela Rose now has 60 and the aim is to finish this year with a network of 120. Sales for Pearl are expected to increase 40 percent this year, Rose said. While she is not gunning to have “thousands” of stylists, Rose does recognize the opportunity. She said, “If you think about it, how many stylists can we have across the country and how many markets can we be in? You’re not limited to where the retail store is.”
Courtney Denby has joined the company as president of Pearl by Lela Rose. Her work experience includes working for the Worth Collection Ltd. where she served as president of the W by Worth brand until the fall of 2017. She then worked as chief operating officer of Front Door Fashion for two years, before joining Rose’s company this month.
With Denby on board, Rose is energized about the prospect of expansion. “I don’t know that we had ever sold to Shreveport, Louisiana. We have a stylist there and she kills it, she’s amazing. You might not necessarily be thinking there is major shopping going on. But these are women, who really want clothes, they want great pieces to wear and they don’t want to have to travel to do it or order online,” the designer said.
Her decision to bolster Pearl by Lela Rose has been a priority in the shifting fashion landscape. “This is different than the recession in 2008. Then you had a sense that you were going to get back to normal at some point. Right now we’re all facing that stores are forever changing and retail is forever changing. It’s not going to be something that you come out and you go back to what used to be. I don’t think what used to be exists any further,” she said Wednesday.
Each season about 60 styles are offered, and the average shopper buys 4.3 items at Pearl shopping events, according to Rose. Trunk show shoppers have the advantage of buying collections before they are available online. In addition, the online selection is more limited than the trunk shows. Unlike her signature collection that offers dresses on average for $1,295 or $1,395, Pearl’s average dress retails for $365. Determined to create all products (with the exception of knits) in New York City, Rose said she was not eager “to step on the gas with stylists” until she had developed apparel that she is “extremely proud of and that fits well,” Rose said, adding that she now wears Pearl more frequently than her own collection.
Stylists typically sell for one week before the samples move on to another stylists, enabling them to “make significant money. It’s not like a full-time salary, but you’re not working full-time. You have total flexibility,” Rose said.
With a bridal salon up-and-running in Dallas for her namesake collection, Rose is interested in testing “more social spaces” to offer her signature rtw label and Pearl in pop-up shops in New York and other cities. Rose will stage a New York Fashion Week presentation on Feb. 10 for her Lela Rose rtw in a pop-up flower shop in the West Village that will remain open for a week. Market appointments will be held there, as well as fun activations and special classes for the public such as cake decorating with flowers. While Rose envisions developing glassware, table-top items, “the perfect cake stand” and other home décor pieces for Pearl down the road, she is focused on the downtown pop-up and the floral-inspired collection that will be displayed there. “It’s all about involving your fan base. We’ll be putting out on Instagram, ‘We’ll be doing ‘X’ class — come by.”