NEW AVENUE: Stephen Ayres has been named fashion director at the online retailer Avenue 32, and he said one of his goals is to ferret out small, often far-flung, labels and deliver them to the site’s fashion-hungry customer.
Ayres joins Avenue 32 from Liberty, where he was head of fashion. He has been working in the industry for more than 14 years, at stores including Selfridges and House of Fraser. At Liberty, he doubled the sales and profits of the men’s wear business and created the children’s department before being named head of fashion. He replaces Erin Mullaney at Avenue 32.
He even got a shout-out in the new memoir by Ed Burstell, Liberty’s managing director, who said that Ayres “fools many” with his innocent smile. “He is one of our top buyers,” who completely transformed the men’s wear business, writes Burstell in “At Liberty: From Rehab to the Front Row.”
Ayres reports to Roberta Benteler, who founded the site, which stocks labels including Carven, Temperley London and Alexander Wang, but also smaller labels such as Rejina Pyo, Barbara Casasola, Shrimps, Eudon Choi and Mira Mikati. The site carries about 150 brands and tends to buy narrow rather than broad, focusing a few select styles from both established and emerging brands.
In an interview, Ayres said he is up for a new experience. “I had done the big department stores, and I didn’t want to do another big business. I think Avenue 32 sits in a very similar space to Liberty. It’s about the edit, curation and a focus on the customer. And with online, the sky is the limit, and you can stock smaller, under-the-radar brands.”
Going forward, he said he plans to spend time doing “out-of-season scouting” and traveling to territories such as Ukraine — the electric-bright, cartoonish Anna K label from Kiev, recently launched on the site — and countries in the Far East.
“We’re spreading the net far and wide and trying to build a global platform,” he said.