“For our women, safety is the new luxury.”
So said Deirdre Quinn, cofounder and chief executive officer of Lafayette 148 New York, which is launching a new division called AtelierDirect. The company has enlisted a group of stylists and brand ambassadors in 25 markets around the country to offer a new, private selling and styling service to clients desiring a more curated, intimate shopping experience.
“The world has changed dramatically over the last three months, and we are working to follow the needs of our customers,” said Quinn. The service is meant to complement, rather than compete with, Lafayette 148’s other channels, she said. “The fact is, for the foreseeable future, our clients have told us that they’re not comfortable shopping in the traditional ways. We want to be there for her — whether it be department stores, specialty stores, our own L148 stores, the web, catalogue and even at home.”
Lafayette 148, which was founded in 1996, sells online at lafayette148ny.com, in 28 freestanding boutiques in the U.S. and China, Tmall, WeChat, as well as in specialty stores and luxury department stores throughout the world.
Paul Lechlinksi, vice president of direct to consumer sales, added, “Not only did COVID-19 show us that you can work from anywhere, but you can service clients from anywhere. You don’t necessarily have to have a traditional retail space to work with your customers. AtelierDirect grew naturally out of a practice that our store teams have already used for years — now we’re expanding it to service more women beyond our current brick-and-mortar reach.”
Bringing a highly personalized approach, “AD Stylists” will work with clients one-on-one, pulling an edit of pieces based on their size, lifestyle and preferences. A shared services team at the company’s headquarters will support the AD stylist network to ensure the brand experience aligns.
“This is an extension of our brand, not an independent business,” emphasized Lechlinski. “We’ve handpicked stylists who embody our values, business ethos, and philosophy. Wherever our clients are shopping, it should always feel like one voice, one look, and one vision of Lafayette 148.”
Quinn added that AtelierDirect doesn’t follow the mold of existing direct retail businesses. “This is an entirely new model,” she said. “Nothing like this exists in the market today. The women we’ve brought on are all tastemakers — style arbiters with wardrobing and selling experience. Think of them as a nationwide group of independent fashion entrepreneurs — they have extraordinary networks and deep connections with the kind of modern, accomplished women that we dress.”
She said she found these women through a former employee who used to work for the company in the Eighties, and had established a network of stylists through another job.
The 25 markets where the service will launch include Chicago, Boston, Nashville and Naples. The company plans a “fall season pilot launch” in September to coincide with its re-branding and fall 2020 collection debut in August. The program will be built to scale for spring 2021 based on the fall 2020 learnings.
“At this time when the pandemic has challenged our sense of control, having more choices is empowering,” said Quinn. “The Lafayette 148 mission is to help women feel their power so they can build their worlds. AtelierDirect gives them another effective option for shopping and engaging with our brand.”
Quinn said the customer can either meet the stylist in Lafayette 148’s concept store, or make an appointment for the stylist to go to their home or office. She said the stylist will have a selection to show actual samples and will also show styles through the catalogue and web site.
“Having the ability to manufacture on demand is the strength of the company,” said Quinn. The brand has its own factory in China.
Asked how her retail accounts might feel about this new division, Quinn said, “They weren’t happy when I launched a catalogue and starting selling online 12 years ago. If your product sells, we work it out. This is just another division of what we do. It doesn’t make anything less important. In this time of change, it’s important to try new things.”
Meantime, Quinn said five of her freestanding stores opened Tuesday — in Manhasset, N.Y., South Coast Plaza, Tysons Corner, Va., and Miami and one outlet in Woodbury Common. “Every single store did business,” she said.