Recent CFDA Incubator participant, ISAORA, is making waves with its approach to retail once again. Less than a year ago, in an attempt to make their unique aesthetic more accessible, Ricky Hendry and Marc Daniels, the duo behind the brand, launched their diffusion line, iO - a capsule collection of their greatest hits at a more affordable price point. This Spring, the brand, known for its fashion-forward take on technical and functional fabrications, has taken things a step further and decided move all their retail operations to their website. Here's why ...
The four year old brand has built a strong following for its directional approach to high-end outerwear, albeit managing to fly under the radar. The reasons for this are two-fold. First, the prices that their designs command have approached exorbitant levels, and are definitely considered investment pieces for most. For an emerging brand, this can be a hindrance in gaining new fans and customers, as they may be unwilling to spend top dollar on a label they aren’t terribly familiar with. And with most of the fabrics sourced from Italian and Japanese mills and nearly all of the construction done in New York City, this isn’t a case of simply lowering the premiums associated with the brand, as is the case with many luxury labels. Second, for a line with a distinct vision, having only a handful or fewer of your items in a third-party retail store (which has been the case a many of the retailers stocking ISAORA) can distort what message your brand is trying to send. Together, these two factors can likely be enough to prevent a promising label from ever realizing its potential.
Enter ISAORA's new retail strategy. We can compare the move, in part, to the business models of Warby Parker, Bonobos, and Hugh and Crye, all of which have decided to forgo the traditional retail business model in favor of selling directly to their customers via their websites (and in some cases, very select brick and mortar locations).
This seems like a well-executed move on ISAORA's part. This new business model will allow ISAORA to deliver its message, undistorted, directly to their customers (and potential customers), and build their brand aesthetic without interference (read: the retailer's curation of each season's collection). It will also enable the brand to lower its price point by eliminating the necessary retail mark-ups, making their covetable jackets and sweatpants all the more tempting for first time buyers. (It will also free them from the potential retailer-imposed mark downs that so many luxury brands are moving away from. Think: the push for individual shop-in-shops in department stores like Neiman Marcus and Saks, etc. and Prada's shunning of the vast majority of department stores altogether. The Italian brand cited the "permanent end of season sales mode" as a key downfall of stocking at non-Prada retailers.)
And, if there was any doubt that all this retail strategery might distract the designers from their day job, fear not, as the label is releasing an online-only capsule collection to coincide with the move. Comprised of lightweight bomber jackets and sweats perfect for Spring, the capsule comes with all the usual ISAORA bells and whistles but at a much lower price - proof that this move is already a good thing for consumers.