NEW YORK — Put Alice + Olivia down as the latest brand to jump onto the consumer-show bandwagon: The brand will mount a runway show in April that will feature current season product at an as-yet-to-be-determined venue in Los Angeles.
At the same time, the company is getting ready to make its foray to Europe. “We’re really looking at London and Paris,” said chief executive officer and designer Stacey Bendet. “They’re very much on the horizon. There’s a huge opportunity for us there. We already have two stores in Hong Kong, and units in Shanghai and Beijing. Europe is the next stage of our growth. We’re going to hit all the European capitals.”
The brand continues to grow in the U.S., with stores in Miami and Houston on tap. Bendet on Wednesday unveiled the renovation of her first store on West 40th Street here with a new design concept that includes white subway tiles on the walls, gray resin-coated floors and dressing room murals painted by Donald Robertson.
Alice + Olivia’s offices were in the same building as the store, which opened a decade ago. “It was such an amazing way to start learning about retail,” Bendet said. “I could go downstairs and watch people shop.”
Bendet said she’s continuing that education with April’s consumer-friendly show, with Milk Studios under consideration as a site. “It’s just common sense. No one wants to spend all this money and effort and not have it generate sales. Now everything is so visible right away,” Bendet said, referring to the ubiquity of runway shows online. “A week later, the customer has forgotten it. You have to capture the consumer in the now.
Aliceandolivia.com and the Web site of a major retailer will live-stream the show, Bendet said, adding that a certain number of tickets will be reserved for consumers. The show will highlight exclusive items, including a capsule collection The Grateful Dead x Alice + Olivia. Bendet’s husband, Eric Eisner, is a producer of an as-yet untitled Grateful Dead documentary.
A live musical performance will be an element of the Alice + Olivia runway show, which will be held after the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival ends April 24. The designer is deciding between Beau, a new band, several girl bands and a Grateful Dead cover band.
All of the looks will be sold during and immediately after the runway show. “We’re doing limited editions, making 100 of certain Grateful Dead items, including sneakers, beaded gowns, a shift dress and a button down shirt,” she said. “We’re also cutting things specially for the show, like a white tuxedo jumpsuit and other items. Everything in the show will be available.
“Fashion week itself has become such a consumer event that it makes more sense to show what’s currently in store,” Bendet said. “On one hand, we need to show the clothes to buyers ahead of time. Consumers need things at the height of season. For me, February is still about the buyers and the live show is the height of spring.”
Bendet said she’ll probably do a consumer-facing show in September where holiday will be among the offerings.
“Producing a live show will be more costly, but it will inspire sales and generate a huge retail buzz,” Bendet said. “The events for the wholesalers will be smaller, exclusive events. We’re thinking of taking the wholesale events into the showroom with old-fashioned models walking around the room.”
Another reason Bendet is eager to stage a live runway show is to bridge the gap between brick and mortar retail and e-commerce. “It’s important to integrate the online and offline worlds,” she said.
Shorter production cycles aren’t necessarily the key to offering buy-now-wear-now products. “It’s not about it being a shorter channel as much as having things that are exclusively available right then and there,” Bendet said. “Take our embroidered denim, for example. We do a different style with each delivery. We only make about 300 of each design. Those are the kind of exclusive items we want to show, seasonless items that can be a little exclusive.”