HENRYs take note. École’s pop-up in Los Angeles is the first in a city-by-city rollout of the men’s wear e-tailer startup as it vies to build its customer base.
HENRYs — an acronym for high earnings, not rich yet — is École’s target market. They’re on the older end of the Millennial spectrum and are customers with discerning style palettes but short of the money for a closet full of designer clothing.
“He’s making money but he’s not rich yet,” said founder and chief executive officer Jorge A. Cosano. “So for that guy, he doesn’t mind [spending] but he plays a lot with high-low and he likes to always know that there’s good quality. That there’s a name behind it.”
The company this week opened a pop-up showroom at The Standard in downtown Los Angeles, which will be open for a month. It follows one in New York in March, when the company soft launched the online store with six designers: Siki Im, Public School, Patrik Ervell, Richard Chai, Robert Geller and Common Projects.
The Los Angeles pop-up is part of a second wave of designers being added to the shop that are all based out of Los Angeles: John Elliott + Co., Second/Layer, Hiro Clark, Article No., Simon Miller and Garrett Leight.
Sixty-five inch touch screens fill the space, immersing visitors in the École shopping experience, which is focused on leveraging technology with a streamlined checkout and site that places designer stories ahead of actual commerce.
“The idea is we really are trying to define what the whole discovery process with guys means for commerce,” Cosano said. “Right now, a lot of people have talked about it, but we think we have a different model to talk about. So we’re going to major cities in America to define what [are] the new young designers and be ahead of the curve.”
Another dozen or so New York labels will be added in September in what Cosano described as “the next wave of New York brands.”
Cosano is a former executive at L’Oréal, where he worked for seven years. The last four years of his stint there was spent running the company’s venture capital arm, working with firm such as Warby Parker and others in the retail, media, fashion and beauty space.
“There was a disconnect between supply and demand,” he said. “[Retailers] treat men’s like an afterthought after women’s. Guys are changing. Maybe like five years ago they were not as into [shopping], but guys are into it now.”
That’s largely being driven by two factors, Cosano said. First, Millennials are coming into adulthood and are more image-conscious than previous generations. The other is the fact that couples are holding off on marriage until later in life, forcing a greater need to keep up appearances for a longer period of time, he added.
That’s the gap on the consumer side École hopes to fill. On the supply side, Cosano wants École to be a platform for emerging designers.
“In the supply chain, there are a lot of great brands within the U.S. market but they struggle to grow because there are not that many avenues they can go,” he said. “They can go to the Barneys of the world but they are very niche opportunities or, if not, they need to go to the next level that is Gilt and it doesn’t make sense for a new, upcoming early-stage brand to go to a discount retailer. So the goal was, how do we build that part of the market?”
Cosano said École sits between a Mr Porter and Barneys in the landscape of retailers.
The company, headquartered in New York, counts five workers. Average transactions on the site are currently hovering around $270. École has attracted some angel investors but has not yet sought venture capital. That’s something likely to happen after September, Cosano said.
“We want to first build a little bit more on the model, get some traction and then we’ll have serious conversations with the VCs,” Cosano said.