California-inspired boutique chain The Westside is in expansion mode, with the launch of a new wholesale strategy and a partnership with Saks Fifth Avenue that begins Monday.
Four years after selling Intermix to Gap for $130 million in 2013, seasoned retailers Sari Sloane and Haro Keledjian founded Greenwich Retail Group and launched The Westside and Everafter, multibrand concepts for women and kids, respectively, which encompass 14 stores from coast to coast.
Now they have set their sights on growing their own collections The Westside, Everafter and Summerland, which is for teens.
Currently those labels — which for spring sold on-trend resortwear, such as cutout minidresses, shirred cropped tops, ruffled bodysuits, fringed T-shirts, psychedelic floral wide-legged pants and terry cloth clutches — represent 35 percent of online and in-store sales.
Saks will be launching both The Westside and Everafter for fall 2022, kicking off the move into wholesale. The collections will be in the New York, Beverly Hills and Boston stores as well as online. Additionally, Sloane will host a virtual event on Saks Live on Sept. 28 with a behind-the-scenes look at her favorite pieces.
“Private label is something I did a little bit of in my Intermix days,” said Sloane. “But this has been a really, really fun learning experience, and it’s been very well received. Our customers love it and it’s really meant to be complementary to our product assortment, but also a real growth vehicle. And today when so many different aspects of the business have changed, from supply chain to vendor credits, to all the brands having their own strong e-commerce, it gives us a competitive edge.”
Although Sloane is based in New York, the name The Westside channels the aspirational lifestyle of Los Angeles west of the 405 freeway, where lifestyle tastemakers like Gwyneth Paltrow, Reese Witherspoon, Kate Hudson and many more have homes.
“Intermix was very designer, sexy, going out. And after we sold that, and I took a couple of years off, I started to think about how whenever I’m in L.A., I love to go to Malibu, Venice and Brentwood — and it’s actually different than Beverly Hills and West Hollywood. Everyone looks like they just threw their clothes on, but they look so cool, and they’re casual and they’re comfortable,” said Sloane. “I would get there and just want to be in the James Perse lifestyle…so it was how could I bring that to New York.
“What I wanted for myself was to have a wardrobe that worked for every day whether you were in New York City or in Oregon or L.A. And when the pandemic happened, we were very well positioned. Because sweats and Ts and Birkenstocks was all the merchandise we were carrying anyway. We were in a good inventory position and it saved us.”
Seeing sweatpants fatigue coming, Sloane started rounding out the offerings at the stores, which feature dresses, casual tops and denim by brands such as Ulla Johnson, Sea, Cult Gaia, Isabel Marant, Ganni, Re/Done, Citizens of Humanity, Staud, Teva and more — all with an eye to resort living.
The Westside collection mixes in maxi skirts and gauze dresses, novelty T-shirts and knits with the same holiday spirit.
“I found there were certain categories we sell so well in the stores that we could never find enough of, or I couldn’t find in the way that was just right for us. I love color, and the brands that sell real casual apparel tend to be much more basic and muted. Our first collection we launched with T-shirts that were a little more designed, and our first sweats were a bandana print. We did a sweatsuit that was a full-fitted sweat skirt with a sweat shirt. It looked so cute with a bootie or sneaker.”
All of the collections are Western-inspired, whether that’s taking cues from the Coral Casino in Montecito, California, Hawaii in the ’70s or, for fall 2022, Joshua Tree. Prices are $200 to $400, and higher from some handmade in Peru sweaters.
Sloane wouldn’t share financials for the business, but explained that she and her husband are self-funding the growth and haven’t yet gone out to raise any capital.
E-commerce only represents 20 percent of sales, “because we launched it late,” she said. Sloane has big ambitions for the collections, and would like them to represent a higher percentage of sales than outside brands as she continues to grow categories.
That said, she still believes in multibrand retail, she said, adding that it’s important for the in-house collections “to be surrounded by the best of the best.”
On partnering with Saks, Sloane has known Tracy Margolies, the retailer’s chief merchandising officer, since they were junior buyers together at Bergdorf Goodman. “They’ve continued to elevate, and it’s our customer there,” she said.
The Westside, which will be showing spring 2023 during New York market week, is also looking for a few other key retailers and e-commerce platforms to reach consumers domestically and internationally.
In the meantime, Westside boutiques continue to roll out, with Miami opening later this year, and Chicago and Dallas on the horizon.
Sloane said there are 14 Intermix veterans working at the company. The biggest difference now compared to when she started in the specialty retail world?
“Now the customer dictates,” she said. “And luckily, we’re small enough to respond.”