Momentum around the Los Angeles Arts District’s development aligned well with designer Alexandra Michelle’s desire to grow her five-year-old women’s line as she further develops her distribution strategy.
Her recently opened pop-up store will test company-owned retail for the designer. The gallerylike space is all white walls and tall ceilings, located in the front portion of her downtown Los Angeles headquarters and work space. It’s an area that hasn’t fully built out a retail identity, but Michelle hopes to change that by creating a place those taking a leisurely stroll or having lunch nearby can stumble upon.
“It’s not on the main drag, which I’m not afraid of at all,” Michelle said. “It’s a good thing we’re not in the main shopping district area. I’m going to be the only clothing store in this particular area. It’s a bit more of a concept gallery retail store. It’s not your typical cluttered store where you go in and there’s a bunch of product. It’s a little bit more selective.”
Objects Without Meaning sells a line of mix-and-match, wearable pieces. The range of tops, dresses and bottoms are described by Michelle as clean and comfortable with some references to men’s wear. The brand’s fall 2016 offering is a collection of silk-blend, mock-neck tops, chunky sweaters and wide leg ribbed pants. It’s carried in about 45 stores, including Individual Medley, American Rag, A Cheng Shop and Concrete + Water.
“I’ve built my company on wholesale only and I’ve started [more recently] doing the online shop and I think a lot of designers are struggling with the wholesale business and trying to reach the consumers through these buyers at wholesale,” she said. “A lot of times it’s a struggle. The consumer, in the end, doesn’t really get to see [the line] because it’s so picked over when you go through the wholesale business. A lot of buyers are really safe in the sense that they want to know what everyone else is buying.”
While Michelle said she’ll continue building out the wholesale channel in a measured way, direct is of interest to her and something she became mindful of about two years ago when she launched Objects Without Meaning’s online store.
The temporary shop, at 1317 Palmetto St., open Wednesday through Sunday, is another test in selling direct. The store is slated to operate for a few months, although Michelle said it will remain in operation past that if it does well. More stores are also the eventual plan in the short-term, too, if all goes well with the Arts District space.
Ultimately, the designer pointed out, distribution is a balancing act, especially when the desire is to maintain some amount of exclusivity.
“That’s the challenge we have as designers to figure out which stores we want to be in,” she said. “A lot of designers are looking to online shops and other outlets to move more product and I think that’s what I’m doing is I’m trying to go direct and make more margin, make more profit, but obviously not overdistribute. There’s a fine line of being commercial and you have to figure out what that happy place is.”