LOS ANGELES — Two-year-old digital company StyleSaint, which launched its first apparel collection a year ago, is raising its voice — and its profile — in a crowded marketplace, with two new lines and a conscious commerce initiative called Project Impact.
This story first appeared in the November 4, 2014 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
“The goal was always to start a next-generation women’s apparel brand built hand-in-hand with our customers [and] meant to reduce waste in a lot of ways,” said StyleSaint chief executive officer and cofounder Allison Beal, 32. “Waste is inherently built into the fashion industry: water waste, fabric waste, synthetic materials…and there’s also the treatment of laborers, how things are made.”
Beal and her business partner, Brian Garrett, the entrepreneur behind The Row and ShoeDazzle, created an interactive community from Day One and launched SaintSociety, a worldwide members-only forum to create shareable stylebooks. The StyleSaint clothing collection was first available to members of SaintSociety, and feedback and customer transparency were key in its development. Hero styles were honed into bestsellers through customer feedback, such as e-mailed requests for adjustable waistbands or a more flattering front panel. With locally sourced and produced pieces, Beal is able to deliver the refined product in two weeks.
“I’ve always taken the stance of being transparent about our manufacturing processes, as well as some of the issues in this industry. But if I’m going to give all my personal and professional time away, it needs to be about something bigger than a pretty dress,” she said.
Over the past six months, she noticed that more customers were asking about such issues and, via e-mail, started to divulge manufacturing and product information, such as how much water was being saved or why a specific fabric was chosen. “That got the most amount of questions and sharing,” Beal said, “But it’s still about building clothing that people want at a price that they can afford. It turns those girls from being happy shoppers into being happy shoppers who tell their friends.”
Here, she saw her opportunity to layer in the conscious aspect with carefully collected data points shown as snappy graphics — “Water Mark,” “Fabric Footprint” and “Karma Counter,” for example — that also tell each customer the impact her purchase makes on the industry and environment. StyleSaint’s number-one customer, a young woman named An Huynh, has saved about 84,000 gallons of water and created 96 hours of ethical work for local factory employees. Said Beal, “There are two goals: Tying [the customer] to the positive chain she’s affecting and hoping to instill intentional shopping in the future. Because, at the end of the day, if they didn’t shop it, we’d make no impact whatsoever.”
There are new lines launching within the StyleSaint collection, to show off the new online interface and check-out pages. The Silk Essentials collection features basic tops and skirts in chiffon and double georgette, retailing from $84 to $168. Luxe Essentials, which is made in America and milled in California, comprises Modal-silk blend, bamboo, French-terry and Tencel T-shirts, skirts, dresses and pants, ranging from $44 to $128.