Moda Operandi cofounder Áslaug Magnúsdóttir launches direct-to-consumer brand Katla this week, hoping to better match supply and demand for the fashion-savvy sustainable consumer.
A few years after cofounding the luxury e-commerce platform known for its data-driven approach and unique ability to pre-order runway looks in 2011, the Icelandic entrepreneur went on to found Tinker Tailor in 2014, ceasing operations just a year and a half later.
It may have been too soon and too little financing for the personalized ready-to-wear looks and still nascent on-demand production from Tinker Tailor to land. At its peak, the e-tailer carried nearly 100 designers including names such as Rodarte and Osman.
While her expertise is in fashion, she took a step back in the interim and started development on a sustainable hotel in Iceland with a wellness focus, to return to the industry with fresh eyes: “If you look at sustainable brands that appeal to a fashion consumer, it’s still such a small fraction of the overall landscape,” she told WWD.
With Katla, Magnúsdóttir will take a more calculated approach. A year ago, she relocated and downsized to San Francisco to focus on a small collection that she describes as “understated and timeless,” an edited number of raw materials prioritizing sustainable, cruelty-free fabrics — and is taking another, albeit small-but-mighty, dip into on-demand manufacturing.
“We have the luxury of being new and being small,” said Magnúsdóttir, which captures a concurrent theme of circular-aspiring upstarts like Everybody & Everyone, Thousand Fell, Ansea and others launched within the past four months alone.
Focusing on a few fiber areas, such as natural organic fibers like GOTS-certified cotton; cruelty-free protein fibers like cruelty-free certified wool, (but no silk); and recycled synthetics such as regenerated nylon Econyl, Katla aims to carve a tempered approach.
This time around, it will be a much smaller run of made-to-order products that fill out Katla’s overall assortment of seasonless designs catered to a woman who has an active lifestyle. “Better matching of supply and demand has been a theme throughout my career,” reiterated Magnúsdóttir.
Katla will be facilitating its made-to-order requests through OnPoint Manufacturing. “What J. Kirby [Best] brings at OnPoint is the technology behind that,” she added, speaking of the company’s chief executive officer who has been a close contact for several years. Nashville-headquartered OnPoint is already rethinking the fashion production model to be “design, sell, produce” with its highly automated approach at its manufacturing facility in Florence, Ala.
The advantage is in better inventory control, increased efficiency as well as cost savings — as Katla aims to use this initial foray into the made-to-order production model as a launchpad allowing as little as one to two weeks of lead time.
“Another important component of our offering is our transparency tool. Every item has a code with a unique identifier,” she added, as a value-add for resale later down the line. This connectivity is echoed by heritage brands such as Ralph Lauren, which announced the rollout of digital identities in November, or activewear brand Puma which incorporated digital identities in its New York City flagship.
In a city flush with investor capital, tech and conscious consumers, Katla will aim to hit the ground running. As Magnúsdóttir said: “I want to do it step-by-step and really listen to our customers.” The brand’s new air-streamed trailer, with plans to host pop-ups throughout San Francisco, may be the perfect opportunity.
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