Alvin Valley, who is known for his great-fitting pants, is headed back to the wholesale business with a new sustainable collection. He is partnering with The Lebel Group to distribute the line worldwide.
The collection will be introduced this weekend at Coterie, which opens Sunday.
“I felt I needed the support of retailers to get in front of the consumer,” said Valley. “I strongly believe that retailers are the best way to get your product and brand out there, especially if you have a foundational, replenishing business product such as pants.”
Early in his career, Valley developed a cult-like following from women who appreciated his flattering silhouettes. The brand was worn by celebrities such as Jennifer Lopez, Gwyneth Paltrow, Halle Berry and Madonna. To grow the business, Valley sold a 50 percent stake of his brand to The Moret Group, when it was distributed to 400 doors worldwide, selling such stores as Saks Fifth Avenue, Neiman Marcus and Nordstrom. But then the recession hit, and the business suffered. In 2012, Valley bought the business back to reposition it as a direct-to-consumer brand, and launched an e-commerce business, Alvin Valley Direct, which still exists today.
In 2013, Valley secured an additional $3 million in financing, bringing the total to $4 million raised since relaunching the business in March 2012. The funds raised, led by venture capital firm Forerunner Ventures, with participation from Wilderness Point Investments, along with other investors, were expected to give Valley the ability to expand his online business.
“At the time, we were following the business models of Bonobos, Moda Operandi, Warby Parker, etc. The online model can be very expensive with free shipping and returns, and credit card transaction fees for both purchases and returns,” he said. “I also felt that I lost my positioning and connection with the consumer since we were a ‘specific fit’ product that needs to be experienced, and people are not willing to buy three-plus sizes online just to pick one size. With the customer disconnect came lost sales opportunities,” said Valley.
In 2015, Alvin Valley pivoted out of direct-to-consumer e-commerce into trunk shows and pop-up shop in Palm Beach, Fla.; Park City, Utah, and Los Angeles.
“The trunk show platform performed much better. I was able to get more creative and do things that were not within my scope online. There’s no better feeling than having customers spend $10,000 a pop and feeling like they were in an elevated experience,” he said. It was through these private customers that retailers began to call and request a wholesale collection, he explained.
He also said the industry has changed and he wanted to pursue a more environmentally conscious process. He noted that Alvin Valley Direct’s model strayed into unsustainable inventory and logistics hurdles. “I wanted to deconstruct my pants, having infused too much engineering into the collection that limited the customer base. My pants became too structured, so I dismantled them and rebuilt a more flexible line,” he said. He noted that he began searching for fabrics that designers and brands weren’t using from companies such as Solstice, Carlo Pozi, Ruffo Colo and Henry Bertrand, among others.
For spring, wholesale prices for pants are $165 to $315. Jackets are $305 to $435, and dresses range from $325 to $565. Valley said he was inspired by Palm Spring midcentury architecture and use of lines and colors, specifically “the exuberance and uniqueness of the landscape especially during the Sixties. It had a sense of glamour, yet resort lifestyle, Hollywood-meets-West Coast society.”
He said the pants are mostly cropped and cut close to the body. There is a lot of volume in the tops, from exaggerated ruffles to big shoulders. “It has a bit of the campiness that allows people to experiment. Women today need to feel glam…not subdued,” he said.
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