Simplicity? It’s complicated.
Take the ultrastreamlined, stacked product navigation of École, a new men’s wear Web site launching today that abandons the usual product grid to let shoppers scroll horizontally, mix and match in-stock pieces and buy either complete ensembles or individual items.
“We feel that the technology is so differentiated that we have created provisional patents,” said founder and chief executive officer Jorge A. Cosano.
Cosano, who previously led L’Oréal’s U.S. new business incubator, set out last year to build a mobile-friendly shopping destination for midmarket men’s wear with appeal for thirtysomething “Henrys”: high-earning-not-rich-yet guys who are willing to spend a few hundred dollars on a staple clothing item, but stop short of consuming luxury fashion for fashion’s sake.
Arriving at the appealingly spare site, whose responsive design allows the delivery of the same look and feel across different devices and screen sizes, required something of a paradigm shift.
“Don’t think e-commerce, I want you to think about technology,” Cosano recalled saying to his team during development.
Drawing inspiration from the user experiences of Uber and Spotify, the result, revealed to media this week and during a private media preview held at the company’s Bowery studio, bears a closer resemblance to Tinder than a retail shop. Easy-to-bypass, text-free images keep the initial emphasis on individual items from independent brands Siki Im, Public School, Patrik Ervell, Richard Chai, Robert Geller and Common Projects. Pricing and brand information only becomes available on subsequent product pages.
“At the end of the day, guys want simplicity. What they are not going to do is spend Saturday afternoon going to Barneys trying to discover new brands,” Cosano said.
Keeping the number of brand partners and product selection limited was a choice calculated as an alternative to retailers and e-commerce sites that overwhelm customers with vast product selections.
Coming next, Cosano said he and a team that includes Wharton’s David Bell and Details magazine’s communications director Liz Keen as advisers are planning pop-up shops outside New York, as well as predictive sizing functionality that uses an algorithm to match customers to inventory in their size according to their measurements.