Nordstrom’s open embrace of retail brands is unique in the department store industry, and now the Seattle-based chain is getting ready to add another name to its roster.
Lou & Grey, which in 2014 was launched by Ann Inc., will be sold at 30 Nordstrom units and nordstrom.com, starting on Aug. 13. The brand will offer 53 items at launch, with additional pieces rolling out through the fall and winter. Since Lou & Grey operates only a dozen stores, there wasn’t an issue of overlap with Nordstrom.
Seattle-based Nordstrom has been tapping retail brands for years. An assortment from the U.K.’s Topshop in 2012 was introduced at 14 Nordstrom locations. The relationship flourished, and today, Topshop is sold in 103 out of Nordstrom’s 122 full-line stores.
Nordstrom reprised the blueprint in 2015 with Madewell, which was joined the following year by sister brand J. Crew. In the spring, Nordstrom launched a series of pop-ins — its version of in-store pop-up shops — for Allbirds, and began selling Sweaty Betty and Anthropologie Home products in select stores.
Lou & Grey emphasizes comfort, but not at the expense of style. Easygoing pieces are rich in texture, in keeping with the brand’s fabric-first philosophy. The assortment for Nordstrom will include sweatshirts and pants in Signaturesoft fabric and Upstate Sweat novelty woven tops, among other pieces.
“Our customers value high-quality, versatile looks that fit into their busy lifestyles,” said Nordstrom executive vice president and general merchandise manager of women’s apparel Tricia Smith, “which makes this partnership a great fit.”
“The brand awareness, because we’re new, is a little lower than we hoped,” said Julie Rosen, president of Ann Taylor and Lou & Grey. “This is a great way to bring us a new client.
“We’re always saying, how innovative can we be and what’s the next innovation in fabric,” Rosen said. “We balance that between fashion and essentials. We focus on everything from loungewear to street and beyond. When we say, beyond, you can [wear Lou & Grey] and go to work, go on a date or go out to brunch.”
A key part of Lou & Grey’s experience online and in freestanding stores is its selection of third-party products. “The third-party products round out the assortment,” Rosen said, noting that those offerings won’t be a part of the Nordstrom offering. “The third-party area in our stores becomes a place where girls hang out. It all works back to what we design in-house. Our third-party brand partnerships allow us to echo our brand values while also complementing the collection. We’re bringing the consumer coveted brands we know she’ll enjoy discovering.
“For Lou & Grey, we partner with a lot of shoe and sneaker vendors, but we also do T-shirts, which we design on our own,” Rosen said. “We like it to be a very curated assortment and we like it to work together. If we do summer, we want the perfect slide or a great cover-up.”
Rosen said additional stores are definitely in the cards for Lou & Grey. “We’re strategically working with Nordstrom to be in locations where we don’t have stores,” she said. “We’re slowly, but surely figuring out the markets we should be in, and we’re exploring those opportunities.”
The merchandise at Lou & Grey shops-in-shop at Ann Taylor Loft stores will shift in the winter, Rosen said, adding that the Lou & Grey customer at Loft is a little more casual. “We think of the louandgrey.com as the North Star. That’s the assortment we’re giving to Nordstrom. We definitely hope to see the partnership expand. We’ve asked to be in Nordstrom’s new Manhattan women’s flagship” opening in fall 2019.