Maison Standards' is innovating with "pay what you want"

THE PRICE IS RIGHT: French label Maison Standards, which operates on a direct-to-consumer model offering high-end, seasonless basics, is eschewing the summer sale model in favor of a “pay what you want” policy on a selection of end-of-line products.

“We’re taking advantage of the sales period to talk about our model,” explained brand founder Uriel Karsenti. “It’s about putting the accent on transparency and the true value of the product.”

It is the second time the brand has undertaken such an initiative, after it debuted the concept in January. “Consumers easily adhered to the concept,” said Karsenti. “They were happy to participate, and we recruited 40 percent of new consumers.”

The current campaign runs on the brand’s website from today until the end of the month, with consumers encouraged to choose between three different prices for each product included in the offer.

The basic level covers cost of the item and its transport, a second price band integrates development costs and salaries, while the third allows the brand to finance new developments.

This means at the lowest level, a simple cotton t-shirt for women starts at 29 euros, or $32 at current exchange, and its price rises to 38 euros, or $42, for customers who want to invest in the brand’s future projects. The list price of the item was 45 euros, or $50. A men’s chambray shirt is selling for between 55 and 72 euros, or $61 and $80, instead of 85 euros, or $95, originally.

In January, 75 percent of consumers chose the lowest price band, 15 percent the intermediate level and 10 percent, mainly existing loyal customers, chose the top band, Karsenti said.

While the “pay what you want” movement is becoming increasingly common in the hospitality and music industries but has yet to take hold in fashion, although U.S. brand Everlane operates on a similar policy for overstock.

Maison Standards, launched in 2013, offers timeless basics with a policy of transparency surrounding their fabrication and offering prices between 30 and 40 percent lower than its affordable luxury peers by returning its retail margin to customers. Experienced Capital Partners, an investment firm focused on the affordable luxury segment founded by Frédéric Biousse, Elie Kouby and Emmanuel Pradère, former executives of French contemporary fashion group SMCP, bought a 45 percent stake in the label last year.

While Maison Standards is seeing growing demand from third-party retailers, Karsenti is adamant that wholesale does not correspond with its model. The brand has nevertheless staged pop-up stores in the past, with Merci and Opening Ceremony notably, and may collaborate with retailers in the future as a way of communicating around the brand, he said.

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