Revolve Clothing is turning more than a decade of experience in selling premium denim into its debut as a jeans manufacturer.
Grlfrnd Denim, which launches Wednesday on the Cerritos, Calif.-based retailer’s Web site, represents its first denim line and the seventh brand produced by its manufacturing arm called Alliance Apparel Inc. The women’s line also merges the trends for vintage jeans and off-duty model looks, both of which pop up often in social media and street-style photos.
Made in Los Angeles, the 18 styles are named after models, past and present. For instance, midrise slouchy shorts pay homage to Adriana, stretchy high-rise skinny jeans evoke Kendall, skinny jeans with a split outer seam suggest Natalia, a button-up denim shirtdress is a tribute to Miranda and a cropped denim jacket with frayed edges screams Cara.
“Grlfrnd is a really, really sexy denim brand,” said Raissa Gerona, vice president of brand marketing and partnerships at Alliance and Revolve. “It’s just looking to those women who are constantly being photographed, on the runway, off the runway.”
Alliance’s denim team, which has previously worked at brands such as THVM Denim, replicated a vintage vibe, using smaller shanks, older washing techniques that give a lived-in feel and higher rises that measure between 8 ½ inches and 11 inches. Retail prices start at $160 for shorts and top out at $398 for jackets and jumpsuits. The majority of the denim sells for between $190 and $220. The follow-up collection in fall will expand to 48 styles.
“We want to see what the customer reacts to and build the collection intelligently after that,” said Mitch Moseley, chief executive officer of Alliance Apparel Inc. in Los Angeles.
Since acquiring Alliance and its three brands — Friends + Lovers, Tularosa and NBD — in March 2015, Revolve has introduced three additional labels. It stepped into shoes with Raye in April 2015, added flirty separates via Privacy Please in July 2015 and moved into slinky dresses and tops with L’Academie in August 2015.
Revolve’s switch to manufacturing from retail is a sign of the evolution of the premium denim industry. As start-ups, numerous brands have clamored to be stocked among the 500 labels sold on Revolve. Since its founding in 2003, the retailer has taken pride in launching brands like Paige Denim. Once the businesses grew, the denim designers expanded their collections with sportswear, appealed to a broad range of customers and built their own networks of freestanding stores.
“A lot of the other denim brands service everyone. My mom wears J Brand,” said Michael Mente, cofounder and co-ceo of Revolve. Venturing into the premium denim industry as a manufacturer “gives a little flexibility to focus on the young Millennial customer,” he said. Plus, Revolve is buoyed by what he’s observed as “a nice recovery in the past 18 months or so” in the cyclical market. “Our customer is looking for something emerging, fresh and exciting,” he said.
Revolve plans to begin wholesaling Grlfrnd in the fall. It hasn’t lined up specific stores yet, but its track record for its other in-house brands indicate success in landing Lovers + Friends and Tularosa at Neiman Marcus and Shopbop.com, NBD at Nordstrom and Raye at Harvey Nichols.
“The target for wholesale is to launch with specific partners and give them exclusivity,” Moseley said. “We are open to various opportunities.”
Mente added that launching on Revolve’s e-commerce site gives Alliance a certain advantage. “We get immediate customer feedback: Did the shapes and fabrics work? Were there any hiccups?” he said. When it’s time to wholesale, “the product will be very perfected at that point.”
While Mente didn’t disclose a sales target for Grlfrnd, he said Revolve is sticking to its goal of growing sales to $600 million this year from over $400 million last year. Alliance closed last year with sales of $18 million. “Especially in the near term, we’ll develop organically,” he said.
Moreover, Mente is open to the idea of investing in other companies or starting a fashion fund as a route to cultivating young designers whom Revolve could feature on its Web site. “It’d be interesting,” he said. “There are a couple of things that we’re working and exploring.”
Still, both shoppers and designers shouldn’t worry that Revolve is abandoning its roots as a retailer.
“The customer is interested in emerging designers and real people with real stories behind the clothes,” Mente said. “There is always going to be an important place for third-party designers in Revolve’s DNA.”