Joyce Azria, founder and chief executive officer of Avec Les Filles, grew up in retail. As the eldest daughter of BCBG Max Azria founder Max Azria she was scouting store locations as an eight-year-old, working at BCBG’s Wilshire Boulevard store in Los Angeles as an 11-year old, and visiting factories in China as a child.
After leaving her role as creative director of BCBGeneration, where she worked six years, Azria created her own Millennial line, Avec Les Filles, which means “with the girls” in French. The Parisian-inspired brand launched last month with 155 in-store shops in Macy’s and on macys.com, as well as her own e-commerce site. She also sells Revolve.com. Azria seeks to develop the label into a contemporary lifestyle brand and has signed 12 categories that are available at other retailers.
Avec Les Filles is funded by non-family member private-equity investors.
Azria believes the key to success is staying nimble and thinking like a tech start-up, remaining tight and lean. “Operating like a jet ski is where we should be in our mind,” she said. She produces her line in China and also does capsules in Italy and Paris. The collection retails from an $18 T-shirt to a $600 leather jacket.
Azria told the audience that the most successful brands have truthful storytelling. She feels it’s important to be authentic and connected. She said so many department store brands are manufactured by the same companies and just don’t feel authentic. Growing up in Los Angeles, she saw a lot of businesses develop that were authentic and fully focused on e-commerce. She’s seen them develop into $100 million businesses, but they don’t make money. “The consumer has so much to choose from,” she continued. She said the Millennial consumer wants experiences, a place where she can touch and interact and she wants the truth. She wants that personal touch and personal service and wants to take things home with her immediately.
Azria believes that the Millennial customer shops both high and low, and it’s a myth that everything has to be below $150. When she talks to her friends and customers, she sees that no one is buying all cheap clothes. She’s wearing a Rebecca Minkoff bag or Chanel flats, and she loves real leather and cashmere. “Even though her appetite for cheap fashion is robust, she wants to finish off the looks with an aspirational piece,” said Azria.
In response to an audience member question, Azria said she would eventually would like freestanding stores, but would like to enter bricks-and-mortar “in a collaborative and storytelling way so I’m leveraging other people’s audiences.”
Asked what she thinks of the Made in the USA movement, she said, “I think it’s charming and I’d love to build it in.” But the key is speed. “[In China], I can get back into something in 90 days landed. Although I love [U.S. manufacturing] and I’d love to build more made in L.A., I have to work with what my consumer wants and where I can leverage the best price.”