It’s been a challenging few months for Revolve, along with most businesses and people in the world, but the company is starting to feel some semblance of stability and has a new virtual event on the books.
Revolve U is starting next week, the fashion and influencer lifestyle company’s version of an online university with a week of speakers and panels discussing entrepreneurship, social media strategy, career building and mental health, among other topics. The lineup includes Miranda Kerr, Ouai founder Jen Atkin, Nicole Richie and Teen Vogue’s Lindsay Peoples Wagner, with panelists like fashion designers LaQuan Smith and Michael Costello; blogger Aimee Song; influencer Camila Coelho; Summer Friday’s co-founder Marianna Hewitt; hairstylist Chris Appleton, and former “Bachelor” contestant and “Bachelorette” lead Rachel Lindsay, among others.
“We’ve actually been thinking about this event for over two years,” said Raissa Gerona, Revolve’s chief brand officer. “The plan here is to show a different side of the brand. We’ve really nailed going out and partying and having a good time.”
Revolve is also launching at the end of the month a podcast hosted by Gerona, who will be speaking with several of the guests scheduled for Revolve U.
A large part of Revolve’s business and public image relies on public events, parties and influencer trips, all of which came to an abrupt halt with the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Then large-scale protests around racial injustice led to renewed criticism on social media that Revolve’s image is severely lacking racial diversity — criticism that has been leveled for some time on the fashion world overall, as well as more recently on nearly every sector of the economy. For Revolve’s part, its scheduled speakers look to be an effort toward including more people of color in its conversations.
And considering the pandemic put a kibosh on Revolve’s previous strategy of “having a good time” aspiration, now is as good a time as any to offer fans and customers of the brand something new. Like a week of virtual seminars focused on entrepreneurship and brand-building, which is essentially the theme of Revolve U.
“When the pandemic hit, our business and the world changed in days,” said Michael Mente, cofounder and co-chief executive officer. “The overall business declined dramatically overnight, by almost two-thirds. But everyone adjusted and we’ve been steadily climbing out.”
The company has been able to keep its fans and shoppers engaged with online workouts and activations around staying in, making pasta or lounging by the pool. Mente said he’s been surprised how well swim has been selling this year. But not long after the economic shutdown caused by the pandemic, Revolve enacted mass furloughs and pay cuts for employees that remained, moves that played a part in enabling it to be profitable in the second quarter. Now, most people furloughed have been brought back — although Mente said there were some permanent layoffs — and pay cuts have been reversed.
“Over the last two months, we’ve stabilized in a slightly positive year-over-year sales zone, but we’re still being cautious and disciplined,” Mente said. “We’re prepared for this pandemic to continue indefinitely, but were also ready to move when the time is right.”
The time feels right for a virtual event on a larger scale, since “the end is no longer nigh,” as Mente put it. Although it’s used to creating allure around an in-person party, event or trip, Revolve is looking at virtual events as a long-term addition to its event strategy.
“When all this is over, whenever that is, we just added something to our marketing playbook,” Gerona said.
Homing in on virtual capabilities could also aid the company in its June promise that it will be more inclusive going forward.
“When you have a physical event, it’s limiting geographically, and no, not everyone can afford to go to something like Revolve Fest,” Mente said. “This is a great way to open things up.”