Visitors to OuiHours’ cavernous SoHo offices can’t help but look around at the Warholian artwork, hand-carved furniture and a wall covered with hundreds of snapshots, many of which were taken in the wee hours of the night.
This story first appeared in the December 18, 2014 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
The power of photography, and imagery as a whole, is something that cofounder Marc Balet first grasped working for Andy Warhol as Interview magazine’s creative director. OuiHours’ head merchant Bonnie Pressman needed no convincing, having helped to visualize a more irreverent Manhattan during her tenure at Barneys New York and, more recently, as an in-the-know consultant. The duo, along with president and chief executive officer Alex Dulac, have launched the editorially focused lingerie Web site OuiHours with e-commerce to follow Jan. 1.
Intent on appealing to confident, fashion-minded women with a certain amount of insouciance, OuiHours is counting on big-name photographers to further that cause. During a recent interview alongside Pressman and Dulac in their eclectic lower Broadway office space, Balet said friends like Bruce Weber, Patrick Demarchelier, Albert Watson and David LaChapelle (whom he gave his first job to) “have been rallying around to help and are doing so for very, very little money.” Sante D’Orazio, Luis Sanchez and Paul Westlake already have shot spreads for the site, while Charlotte Rutherford, Steve Hiett and Arthur Elgort are among those on deck. Another significant get is filmmaker Federico Fellini’s grand nephew Gianluca who has shot three videos for OuiHours, including one of a lingerie-clad model baking bread in her father’s bakery in Rimini and another of her cruising the streets of Paris in the back of a limo.
The launch of OuiHours is timely, Pressman said, given the fact that most fashion magazines no longer spotlight lingerie in editorial shoots as often as they once did. The Web site aims to have 300,000 to 400,000 unique monthly visitors by the end of 2015, according to Dulac.
In the 35 years since Balet, a Rome Prize winner, made his way to Warhol’s Factory, (thanks to an introduction by Fran Lebowitz, whom he befriended after meeting her in Rome 35 years ago), he has cultivated his own following for delivering razor-sharp marketing advice. He helped launch Nike Goddess and has advised La Perla, Express, Warnaco and other brands. After realizing that “no one was really talking about lingerie in a sophisticated way, either online or off,” Balet said he finessed the concept over several years, whereas developing the site was an eight-month endeavor.
OuiHours offers 138 products from 60 brands, including Stella McCartney, What Kate Did, Cosabella and Commando. Its online magazine, which will be updated every two to three weeks, has a pop quiz with Halle Berry and a feature about Debi Mazar’s vintage lingerie collection. Susanne Bartsch and Kelly Bensimon were among the first to open their lingerie drawers for #OpenDrawer. Along with having a presence on Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, Polyvore and Tumblr, OuiHours is building its image via YouTube with original video footage, editorial stories, how-to’s and intimate interviews. And a Jan. 1 launch is set for OuiHours radio on Spotify, essentially playlists of what designers, artists and DJs listen to in their own wee hours.
Balet said some of OuiHours’ story ideas stemmed from just rounding up a group of friends, plying them with a little wine and talking about lingerie. Beyond the standard photo shoots featured on the site, online fashion videos and audio recordings of select interviews will be added in coming months. “It’s inherently made for social media. A lot of customers are spending all of their days on Instagram and the various platforms,” Dulac said. “While we have all this great content on the site, we can also go to where they hang out every day. It’s also a lifestyle brand — the ‘wee hours’ is something we have all enjoyed and that lifestyle aspect is something that we can connect with.”
Pressman, in turn, has been highlighting a lot of brands that shoppers might not otherwise see. “It’s about curation and having a point of view, which I learned very much from being at Barneys for all those years,” she said, noting she is all too aware of the barrage of ads and information shoppers face. “Given the imagery [of the site], the engagement and the aspiration it will give to the consumer, I think it will just build. If you go on lingerie sites, it’s all catalogue-driven. It’s boring. You can see product, but it’s boring. This gives it another dimension, another life.”
Balet sees OuiHours as the new alternative. “People just fall back to the usual suspects,” he said. “We’re trying to say, ‘Look, there’s a world of ingenuity, talent and creativity that we’re trying to showcase.’ Basically, that’s what the magazine is about.”
In an effort to stand apart, OuiHours has collaborated with Victoria Bartlett and Curriculum Vitae, with Cadolle and Cynthia Rowley set for upcoming ones. “So as Marc is reaching out to photographers for favors, I’m doing the same thing with merchandising,” Pressman said.
The brand does plan to develop its own label by fall 2015. Freestanding stores will follow, with 2016 as a target date. OuiHours purchases also will be shipped in a signature box that has a patterned interior and opens as a bureau drawer would. And there also is a section on the site designed for brides. “There are 2.2 million couples that get married every year and no one is doing a great job of talking to the bride,” Dulac said.
“OuiHours really has a playful seductive quality to it and that’s what this is about,” Balet said. “Seduction with the magazine, with the product. If you’re seductive in a business meeting with your choice of lingerie or seductive with your boyfriend or girlfriend, then you’re seductive, so the OuiHours is really a mind-set. It’s not eight o’clock at night ’til 3:30 in the morning. It’s a bigger idea than that really.”
Warhol, of course, understood the punch of a powerful image. “He obviously was a huge influence in my life,” Balet noted. “He was a genius about marketing. To this day, when I’m in meetings I think of Andy as a reference. We also did Interview with very little money and made it look like a million. That’s kind of what we’re doing also at OuiHours. Editorially, I’m referring to that to make it really beautiful, extremely entertaining and visually exciting to motivate the consumer to come in and shop.”
Alongside the lingerie offerings, OuiHours shoppers will find Robert Piguet’s Fracas fragrance and Luz de la Riva’s black lace mask among other items. Artist Judyth van Ameringe also has created an assortment of nests designed for shoppers to stow away their jewelry. “That’s a very extreme one,” said Balet, motioning toward a neon orange design with a miniature flashlight. “But we want to offer gifts for women and for men to give to women that they haven’t seen before.”