PROCEED WITH CAUTION: While many brands fortunate enough to land the cover of O, the Oprah Magazin” tend to ramp up production, The Salting has taken a much more measured approach.
Eighteen months after the sharply edited unisex label was launched by Michael Smaldone and Michael Ward, Winfrey donned a gold-colored fedora and caftan on the September cover of her magazine. After O’s creative director Adam Glassman e-mailed to share the news, Smaldone said, “I think I almost fell off my chair. It was pretty great.”
Glassman, whom Smaldone has known for years, liked the looks of The Salting and sent a few of his colleagues in to photograph the collection, and later pulled some items and requested a few hats to be made in Winfrey’s size for her personally. Additional clothes were later sent. About a month ago, Smaldone and Ward were tipped off that a cover shot was a possibility with the caveat that nothing is ever certain.
Trying to be prepared, The Salting launched its e-commerce site earlier this week. There was also considerable discussion about the potential sales ripple triggered by the Oprah effect. “We thought what the jackpot would be, that would be her on the cover in our things. We thought that would never happen. We’re a nobody brand. That never happens — let alone a full look, a caftan and a hat even though it was a close-up. To get a little snippet inside was great. We were just completely floored,” Smaldone said.
Literally a two-person team with a board of advisers, the pair use their own money to “buy what they can.” Knowing that if their products were somewhere in the magazine, they’d get a good hit. The fact that everything is made in the U.S. is “a godsend,” Smaldone said, adding that they reached out to the brand’s fabric supplier, and the hat manufacturer in Pennsylvania. “It’s kind of a cut-as-you-go situation and a leap of faith.”
Expecting sales to range from 50 units to 3,000, the founders decided to hit a middle ground with what they could afford. “We have to be conservative in the beginning. We were probably at 100 pieces each to start. Equipped to turn around caftans and fedoras in about three weeks, the founders feel prepared. Then we can put a pre-order in for people to say, “We can turn this around because we’re made in the USA.”
After The Salting had 10-day pop-up stores in Tribeca’s 180 and Sag Harbor’s Sylvester & Co., two retailers picked up the label — Cold Smoke Supply in Venice Beach and Mikel Hunter, who has stores on Martha’s Vineyard and in Hudson, N.Y. “We’re going to watch to see if we can order more and how fast we can get into it. We really want to do this methodically and well thought out, and really partner with the right people.”
From his former post at Talbots, Smaldone knows the potential of how VIPs like Michelle Obama can ramp up a brand by wearing one dress. “My gut would have been to buy a lot more if I could. But I think this is the right thing to do for us — to go slow, to really get to know our customers and hopefully have a dialogue with people. We really want to engage to see what people’s thirst and appetite is for our product.”