NEW YORK — We-Ar4, which was cofounded by fashion executives Anna Bakst and Michele Rutigliano, is making inroads in the market.
The brand, which repurposes high-quality excess materials to create contemporary ready-to-wear and accessories, launched as a direct-to-consumer business in fall 2021. Last fall, the company began selling its rtw to Bergdorf Goodman and Lane Crawford, as well as rtw and handbags to Selfridges. In January, the company began selling its handbags to nordstrom.com, and will start selling the stores in May.
The brand’s leaders have a broad range of apparel, merchandising and production experience.
Bakst is the former brand president and chief executive officer of Kate Spade New York. Before that she was group president of Michael Kors, and earlier had a 12-year career at Donna Karan International, where she held various posts including president of accessories and footwear.
Rutigliano, who serves as creative director and chief product officer of We-Ar4, was earlier vice president of global merchandising at Kate Spade and before that worked at Marc Jacobs as vice president of global merchandising, leather goods and accessories. Earlier she was with Prada as senior merchandising manager.
Mary Wang, who is a consultant to the business, was previously president of DKNY and later executive vice president of Alexander Wang and chief operating officer of Proenza Schouler. The company has two rtw designers and a handbag designer.
We-Ar4 produces its rtw and accessories out of excess luxury materials from European mills. The materials they work with are surplus textiles and leathers commissioned by other fashion houses and left unused. They give a new life to materials that would otherwise become waste, sourcing directly from top European mills and world-class factories to access deadstock.
The handbags are then produced in Italy and Asia, the rtw is produced in Italy and New York, and the knitwear is manufactured in Asia.
At present, 50 percent of the business is rtw and 50 percent is accessories. By using excess materials, they said their products have a significantly lower carbon footprint than the same product made in the traditional way. Making the material — weaving, dyeing, tanning — can account for up to 80 percent of a new product’s greenhouse gas emissions.
According to Bakst, We-Ar4 got its name because they realized “We-Ar4” such things as planet responsibility and the future of fashion.
Bakst said they saw an opportunity in the market because of their relationships and the trust and support they have with their production partners. “We have a network of people we reach out to when we start each season. They send us stacks of fabric swatches,” said Bakst.
For fall, their collection has the theme Self-Expression and is ’70s-inspired with lots of androgynous looks and sharp tailoring. Bakst said their production runs are small and everything is bespoke. “The business model lends itself to exclusivity,” she said.
They are offering a tight capsule of 15 new styles and around 50 stock keeping units. “They are refined pieces with a utilitarian twist,” said Rutigliano.
Among the rtw pieces are the Jackie Peacoat, The Jane Trench, The High Grove Poncho, The Bianca Blazer and Trouser, The University Cardigan, The Collegiate Skirt and The Mia Jumpsuit.
The Bianca Blazer and Trouser, for example, is a refined tailored blazer coupled with a high-waisted pant with satin waistband, while the College Skirt is a modern spin on a ’70s miniskirt with crisp deep pleats. The Jackie Peacoat is a classic peacoat with exaggerated collar and semi-flare sleeves.
Their rtw retails from $225 to $995 and the handbags are $195 to $595.
The rtw is positioned as contemporary, although they use luxury materials. They’re able to keep the prices in that zone since they get deep discounts on the fabrics.
Handbag styles include The Retro Trunk, a structured top-handle crossbody with lock hardware; The Flight Bag, a modern take on the ’70s flight duffel; The H Hobo, bohemian leather sling, and The Street Tote, a soft canvas tote trimmed in leather.
Colors range from dark chambray, black and green to white and misty merlot.