Guessthouse, the first branded marketplace to be launched by technology platform Guesst, has opened at Simon Property Group’sThe Westchester in White Plains, N.Y. The 3,200-square-foot space packs an interesting punch. Unlike some holiday cooperatives that feature local artisans or up-and-coming designers, Guessthouse has gathered direct-to-consumer brands with strong followings. Some are sold at major department stores, and many operate their own brick-and-mortar locations.
Faherty, Welden and Rhone, which opened a store at Hudson Yards; Robert Graham and Jared Lang men’s wear, available at Neiman Marcus and Nordstrom; jewelry by Freida Rothman, sold at Bloomingdale’s and select Nordstrom units; Mandarina Duck handbags and luggage, and women’s nautical styles from Saint James, among others, are part of the lineup.
“They all have a story and a context and a perspective,” said Jay Norris, Guesst cofounder and chief executive officer. “I believe in cultural currency and getting close to the ground. The DTC brands are culturally current. You have to find out who they are by dealing with members of Gen Z and Millennials. I actually brought on ambassadors between the ages of 18 and 25 and they’ve helped to uncover them.”
Guesst’s technology powers retail by connecting and streamlining partnerships between retailers, landlords and brands. The company is like a matchmaker, connecting brands to similar or complementary retail hosts. The brands may be direct-to-consumer businesses with little or no exposure to retail, while the host stores have extra square footage or even a few free shelves that they want to monetize.
“Rhone and Faherty have stores,” Norris said. “Jared Lang has a huge following. It was sold at Barneys New York. It doesn’t have any more stores though. A lot of heritage brands have moved away from brick-and-mortar, and we’ve become a source for them. Rhone has a mailing list of 185,000 and has its own following, which it’s been cultivating.
“Even Rhone and Faherty want to test certain centers before they commit to a physical presence,” Norris added. “We do co-promotions with the brands and we’re going to do social media. Brands are always trying to reach a broader audience. That’s why you see heritage brands that want to be reimagined, and DTC brands that want credibility. I feel as though we’ve created a collective that will benefit from the cross-promotion.”
Simon Property Group launched its own platform for direct-to-consumer brands with much fanfare several years ago, The Edit at Roosevelt Field in Garden City, N.Y.
Norris said he chose the brands carefully so there would be no overlap. Offtrack offers leather leggings, priced from $975 to $1,125. “They’ve got Kate Hudson, and they have a bunch of people rocking them,” Norris said. Yona New York, luxury work wear, offers pleated leather jackets and dresses, $625, and $525, respectively; Stutterheim, a Swedish maker of raincoats for men and women since 1920, was sold at Barneys New York; They New York, graphic sneakers, and Tide Hill bedding.
“We did this in less than 30 days,” Norris said. “Each brand has to host their own event at the space. It’s not an easy task to get consumers in the door. We’re going to help with our event calendar and Meet the Designers of Guessthouse series, which starts next week.”
Norris is asking brands to create limited-edition products for the holidays. “The whole sale and promotional thing is throwing a monkey wrench into the season,” Norris said. “The products have to be good enough for a sale to occur. The designers have to be tasked to make very unique goods.”
Guessthouse will operate beyond the holiday season. “We’re there for two years,” Norris said. “It’s essentially permanent. I think the market is going to two-year leases at the most. There may be some that have five-year leases, but [tenants will have clauses] so they can get out in two years.”
In addition to Guessthouse, Norris said Brandbox Marketplace powered by Guesst will launch on Friday or Monday at Macerich’s Tyson’s Corner Center in McLean, Va., with some of the same brands participating.