“Right now we are really inspired by Los Angeles and the West Coast,” said Nasty Gal chief executive officer Sheree Waterson.
She was talking about the latest Nasty Gal-branded collection, a 20-piece, western-themed offering that manages to straddle near costume in much the way many of the e-tailer’s items tend to veer. There’s a studded sheer lace dress, matching soutache skirt and bustier and embroidered tailcoat. The second part of that collection, timed just ahead of the rash of music festivals set to begin, will be released in a few weeks, according to Waterson.
“Clearly, it is festival season and the beauty of our inspiration is it’s perfect timing,” she said.
But from a more thoughtful place, the collection speaks to a “sea of change,” as Waterson called it, that’s taking place among creatives in Los Angeles.
“It’s shifting from New York and making [its] way across the country and coming here,” she said. “What’s interesting about that is that the people who are migrating, it’s our gal. It’s our customer. So when you think about it 10 years ago [or] 15 years ago, Los Angeles was really the red-headed stepchild of New York City and what we had here was primarily viewed as the music and entertainment industry but not the fashion, not the finance, not the tech…. So the complexion has changed.”
It’s a particularly optimistic sentiment for the shifting tides in not just downtown Los Angeles, where the company is headquartered, but where the Nasty Gal business is at.
WWD last month reported the company shed 10 percent of its staff, which equates to 19 workers, as part of a restructuring. The company underwent at least three rounds of layoffs in 2014.
“The market in which we operate is changing, both in retail broadly and apparel specifically,” Waterson said to staff in an e-mail obtained by WWD at the time of the most recent cuts.
The privately held company, which has raised $65 million to date, doesn’t disclose financial information, Waterson said.
The company appears to be banking on the equity in its brand to help carry it through the industry headwinds.
“I’ll tell you where the consumer’s going,” Waterson said. “Our customer is interesting. She has a very full and exciting life. She is very experience oriented, going to restaurants, traveling and so forth. Dressing and apparel has become less important for her, but it’s about creating for her things that are investment-oriented, meaning that aren’t going to fall apart [and] that are beautiful and unique. We’re in the business of creating desire.”
If successful long-term in drumming up that desire, it justifies the prices of collections such as the recent rodeo-inspired drop, which retails in-store and online for $68 to $248, as the company looks to test what Waterson said is fatigue for fast fashion amid a flight by consumers back to quality and what she called a “purpose-oriented brand.”
Still, even she recognized the sensitivities to price point admitting that Nasty Gal is “aspirational but it’s also accessible.”
With that stance, the e-tailer will continue to grow out the Nasty Gal label, designed by a team of six and accounting for about 40 percent of what’s carried in the company’s two stores and on its Web site.