LONDON — As designer labels continue to experiment with see-now-buy-now initiatives and adjust their business models to suit the needs of today’s digitally savvy consumer, young fashion brands are cropping up with a direct-to-consumer approach at the heart of their businesses.
Kitri, a new, digital-only brand, is one such label and one of the first to launch in London. Founded by Haeni Kim, the label aims to bridge the gap between the high-street and contemporary labels. It answers to the needs of young professionals who have some spending power and who want to invest in quality clothing beyond the high street, but who are not willing to pay contemporary label prices.
“The idea came from mine and my friends’ needs. We want trend-led clothing that’s not poorly made or badly fitted, but at the same time, we don’t want to pay hundreds of pounds on designer clothes,” Kim said. “A lot of people want to travel or eat out, I think we’re allocating our money a little differently now.”
Aesthetically, the new label takes a modernist approach by focusing on classic shapes updated with subtle, feminine touches.
“We want to provide a solution for modern working women who want to add a little bit of playfulness to their wardrobes,” said Kim, who is pragmatic in her approach to the design process, identifying what she sees as the missing pieces in women’s wardrobes.
Among the highlights of her latest collection is an androgynous-striped jumpsuit, classic-striped shirts with ruffled sleeves and a jacquard wrap dress. Prices range from 59 pounds, or $72, for a camisole to 145 pounds, or $176, for a dress.
Kim said by cutting the middle man and selling direct-to-consumer she was able to maintain lower price points.
“If we were to have a traditional business model, we’d be adding six times the actual cost price to take the collection to retail, and we’d be way more expensive than our competitors. So I wanted to go online and directly to the consumer, as they are very comfortable with buying things online, particularly in the U.K.” said Kim, adding that in previous marketing and merchandising roles she held, she experienced the frustrating side of selling at wholesale where brands “are not getting the feedback they are looking for or building the community they want.”
A small selection of five to seven new styles will go live on the site every Monday, in line with the brand’s concept of “fresh fashion,” which aims to offer newness while at the same time take a more curated approach, so as not to overload the consumer with product.
Tailoring and jersey pieces will be among the new additions before the brand expands into other categories to become a “full solution.”
Service is another focal point for the company as it targets a younger, digitally savvy customer. It is offering free next-day delivery and free returns and working toward upgrading its offer to same-day delivery.
As a digital brand, Kitri plans to embrace social media to reach out to its consumers and produce content on the web site spotlighting the stories of inspirational women involved in the company, to market itself and build a community around the brand.
At the same time, Kim highlighted the importance of having “physical touch points” saying that a pop-up shop in central London is in the works for May. “We’re such a new brand, so it’d be really good for the customers to come and actually physically see the quality of the products,” Kim added.
A number of new U.S.-based labels have already been adopting this new direct-to-consumer business model to great success. La Ligne, a contemporary label known for its modern take on the Breton stripe, is among them.
It was created by former Vogue editors Meredith Melling and Valerie Boster with Rag & Bone’s former head of business development Molly Howard.
“Selling directly to consumers via Lalignenyc.com allows us to completely own the entire customer experience: product, service and most importantly our relationship with shoppers. Through this model, we’re also able to adapt quickly and not necessarily adhere to a strict fashion calendar. We can introduce products when consumers are desiring them most,” Howard said.
Similarly Reformation, the hip label known for its slipdresses and playful crop tops created using repurposed vintage and surplus materials, has been selling directly to its young audience via its web site and own stores, with the exception of a retail partnership with Net-a-porter.
Kitri is one of the first labels of its kind to be launching in the British capital, where designer labels have been working toward shifting their business models to address the consumer directly.
In addition to major companies such as Burberry and Topshop, Preen by Thornton Bregazzi has shifted its secondary label Preen Line to a direct-to-consumer model, while Mother of Pearl is working toward implementing the shift from next season.