Gary Wassner is best known for his work with brands under the umbrella of his company, Hilldun, which provides factoring and finance services for everyone from Alexander Wang to Cushnie et Ochs. However, as of 2015, he broadened his footprint, launching InterLuxe Holdings, a platform to invest in growing high potential fashion and luxury brands and support them with infrastructure, capital, and business resources to accelerate growth. Already on InterLuxe’s roster: Jason Wu and ALC. Add to that the fact that through Farol Asset Management, Gary Wassner and other fashion insiders bought into Cushnie et Ochs (pictured above) to fuel its growth.
Wassner recently sat down with WWD to discuss the impact of Millennial preferences, the growth of new businesses and other trends while offering some insights into how companies can navigate this challenging market. Here are some key takeaways …
On trends in the market: The biggest single trend I’m seeing is a dramatic change in the desirable price point for ready-to-wear and accessories. The expectations for price have dropped significantly.
On brands going online and direct-to-consumer: The shift of percentages of product being sold through omnichannel has also changed dramatically. Brands are looking to increase their e-commerce business to a 25 to 35 percent total of sales. This is unprecedented.
Many brands are talking about and actually pulling their collections from the major department stores because they cannot do business with them profitably. Margin agreements and markdowns are stealing every dollar of profit. Many many of the new, young start-ups I’m seeing are introducing their collections direct-to-consumer only.
On the downfall of brands: It seems to me that brands play less and less of a role. Millennials don’t seem to care about polo players on their shirts or double G’s and H’s on their belts. They care more about who in pop culture is wearing what and who looks good in what, and they’re buying based upon those impulses. There’s no loyalty to brand, since in every image the people are wearing something different.
I’m seeing much less concern for the brand and much more concern for the product look and feel. The brand is secondary. Product, price and quality are dominating the consumer’s choice. Pop culture has a tremendous influence on Millennial shopping choices. If it looks good on Gigi Hadid then the Millennial shopper wants it and seeks it out.
His advice for navigating the current state of the market: Be cognizant of the specialness of your product. Be aware of the season and the buy-now-wear-now mentality. Understand your consumer. Work really hard to do that. Visit the stores. See what’s selling, what looks really good and what doesn’t. Be aware! Continue to build an e-commerce platform and make it as easy to navigate as possible. Less back story, more great product and emotional imagery. Time is short, patience is short. You convert the consumer immediately or you lose them.