The Glossy Podcast is a weekly show on the impact of technology on the fashion and luxury industries with the people making change happen.
'Skipped a few steps': Erin and Sara Foster on leaning into their fashion opportunity
Erin and Sara Foster are used to being described as writers, producers, actors, entrepreneurs, maybe influencers -- but “fashion brand founders” is a new one.
“I think it’s a combination of imposter syndrome and of, like, ‘Wait, pinch me, we have a fashion brand,’” said Sara Foster, upon being caught off-guard by her Glossy Podcast introduction.
After a successful collaboration with Joe’s Jeans in 2020, the sisters launched their apparel brand, Favorite Daughter, through Joe’s founder Centric Brands on December 1. They’re now focused on taking it to the next level, starting with reaching shoppers beyond their Instagram follower base (which, combined, tops 1 million).
“Right now, people are buying Favorite Daughter because of us. But we don't want that to continue for the long term,” said Erin Foster. “We want people to find Favorite Daughter and like it because they just like it -- and maybe they know that we're behind it, and maybe they don't.”
After launching with a focus on women’s ready-to-wear and DTC online sales, the founders have been busy with expansion plans. They’re currently considering brand collaborations in the footwear and jewelry categories, as well as eying the kids’ clothing space and scouting locations for potential stores.
“We know that we have to find ways to separate ourselves in this totally oversaturated market,” said Sara Foster.
Along with strategies for differentiating, the founders also discussed their “privileged” path in fashion and the lessons they’ve learned from fellow female leaders.
'A really nice pause': Monrow's founders on lessons learned in their break from wholesale
In 2007, Michelle Wenke and Megan George set out to create the anti-Juicy Couture.
“We wanted to be able to wear sweatsuits that catered to people like us, where they weren't so loud and bubble-gummy,’” Wenke said on the latest Glossy Podcast. “We wanted them to look a little more like streamlined and low-key, and not just [be about] hot colors and graphics and bedazzled everywhere. We were a lot younger, so we didn't really have this grandiose plan. We just were like, ‘Let's try it out.”
In the 13 years since, their L.A.-based loungewear brand Monrow has been sold by more than 500 boutiques and department stores, including Neiman Marcus and Shopbop, and worn by celebrities from Oprah to Gwyneth Paltrow.
Wenke and George discussed how they’ve self-funded Monrow, how they’ve differentiated in the newly crowded sweats market and how they’ve accommodated their new e-commerce shoppers, which grew from 30% of their customer base to 50% during the pandemic.
'People were stressed': Coco and Breezy on fashion’s scramble to embrace diversity
Corianna and Brianna Dotson, better known as Coco and Breezy, have been playing by their own rules since launching the Coco & Breezy eyewear brand in 2009.
“It was challenging for us when we first started [in the fashion industry] -- with nothing, like less than $1,000. We didn't go to college, and we had never been in a professional business setting. We say that we have our master's degree in trial and error,” Breezy said on the Glossy Podcast.
Since, the sisters have grown the brand -- which counts celebrity fans including Lady Gaga and Nicki Minaj -- as well as careers as influencers, DJs and producers. In 2020, they collaborated with eyewear brand Zenni on a kids’ line and, in October, they were one of seven companies to be accepted into VC firm Andreessen Horowitz’Talent x Opportunity brand accelerator. The program grants them investment dollars, training and access to top mentors.
“It's definitely a confidence builder,” said Coco, of participating in the program. “And we're learning so much.”
In addition to career challenges and recent opportunities, Coco and Breezy discussed their DTC-wholesale balance, their TikTok plans and their rule to “be intentional” in the projects they undertake across the board.
'Incredible growth': Duer co-founder Gary Lenett on opening stores mid-pandemic
Many of the fashion retailers who had plans to open brick-and-mortar stores in 2020 wish they could take it all back. Not so, for Duer co-founder Gary Lenett.
"We just feel very, very fortunate to be in the position we are, given where most of the world is that," Lenett said on the Glossy Podcast. The activewear brand is cash flow positive, and plans to launch new product categories and 4-8 new stores in 2021. Beyond that, Lenett said, the company wants a foothold in the Asian market.
The Canadian company was founded in 2013 and launched its first product on Kickstarter, a model that Lenett argues is inherently more sustainable. "You're not creating a bunch of inventory and then trying to create demand; you're gauging demand and then building the inventory to the demand."
Duer was "basically doubling" its sales "every year for the last five years," according to Lenett, and it's ending 2020 with a 30% bump compared to last. It's now selling in 52 countries.
The company made inroads with men's products that are both suitable for exercise and fit the part in an office setting. While first pitching his products, Lenett said, "my barriers were these retail buyers who kept saying to me, 'No, we don't want to do light and stretchy. That's not masculine.' And I'm going, 'No, I'm wearing it! It's actually a superior product.'"
'Power has transitioned': Axel Arigato's founders on the importance of listening to customers
Axel Arigato co-founders Albin Johansson and Max Svärdh have worked from the bottom-up, in the literal sense.
"The footwear market -- that's where we saw the gap," Svärdh said on the Glossy Podcast.
"How can a shoe cost this much? We couldn't understand that," Johansson added.
But like many companies that start out with just one kind of product, shoes were just the entry point into a broader slate of products, which now include head-to-toe clothing items and a range of accessories. "This is where we'll create, hopefully, some brand awareness, and then we'll explore with other categories," Svärdh said about the founders' reasoning when launching the brand in 2014.
Despite an ongoing pandemic, the Swedish company has opened two new stores in Germany in recent weeks, and has one in Dubai planned for the first quarter of 2021.
Last month, private equity firm Eurazeo took a majority stake in the company, to the tune of a $66.1 million (56 million euro) investment.
The United States is one massive market it could turn to next. Online sales from the U.S. make up close to 10% of the brand's digital total, Svärdh estimated.
Tamara Mellon's co-founders on why the fashion industry has been 'eaten by digital'
Luxury shoe brand Tamara Mellon opened a store in Soho a month before lockdown. "Great timing," company CEO Jill Layfield joked on the Glossy Podcast.
But one effort that's stood the test of time better than a brick-and-mortar shop is the company's truck: a shoe closet on wheels that greets customers at the Covid-conscious rate of one at a time. The 24-foot "TM Closet" has made stops in more than a dozen cities across the country.
Tamara Mellon launched in 2016 as what Layfield describes as the only "true luxury designer footwear brand that's direct to-consumer," Since then, after a Series C last year, it has raised $87 million.
DTC now accounts for an outsized portion of its revenue. Co-founder and namesake Tamara Mellon said the fashion industry, as a whole, has been overdue for a shakeup.
"As Marc Andreessen said, 'Every business will eventually be eaten by digital,'" Mellon said. "I felt like the business model needed to change, and the way people talked and spoke to their customers needed to change. So that's how we came up with doing direct-to-consumer."