Online fashion incubator 151Luwolt in October will open its first store, set to be located in Miami.
The online platform, geared to offering a mix of emerging designers, will sell the same goods it offers on its site in the 500-square-foot store.
“We decided on that location because of the arts climate in Miami and to support the level of consumption and the way consumption works in Miami. It’s become a lot more curated and finessed in the last few years,” said Roy Luwolt, who founded 151 and the luxury shoe brand Malone Souliers with Mary Alice Malone.
The two were recently in Santa Monica as the company focuses on building its brand and seeks to make strides among stylists and celebrities on the West Coast as awards season plays out.
The site 151Luwolt is not the typical e-commerce platform in that it views its designer roster as partners in a way. It sees its role as a mentor to the emerging talent it features, providing lessons on the business side of the industry.
The privately held company, for which Luwolt declined to provide a sales projection, appears to be making a mark on consumers. Luwolt said the company’s business since its November launch has exceeded expectations.
The point of delving into brick-and-mortar is nothing new for e-commerce brands looking to scale and realizing how important existing in the physical world can be for growth.
“Bringing this product in person to the affluent, the influential, the curated and the discerning gives people the chance to experience the product because without the name equity per designer, the most effective part is you can be there [in store] and touch it and understand what it’s all about,” Luwolt said. “That makes all the difference.”
More stores in other markets could be in its future, although Luwolt pointed out that the business does not compete with larger retailers and could do very well with a concession model.
“It doesn’t compete with your bigger concessions, your departmental stores, the multibrand stores,” he said. “The idea of 151 is that it curates these emerging designers who would not otherwise have the leg up to get into these stores or have these consumers access to all that.”
The platform counts 26 designers, although the goal is to hit 100 by year-end — roughly around the ceiling they’d like the site to have — and Luwolt said the company has a waiting list of about 50.
“Then it’s not so overwhelming that each designer gets lost in the mix,” Malone said. “We want everything diversified and we’re doing as much as we can that they don’t go on a site and get lost.”
The company is also considering a model where it will rotate fashion directors every six months so as to ensure new points of view in merchandising of the site.