Rory Beca, the Los Angeles-based designer known for her bright silks and colorful prints, has announced that she is shuttering her eponymous label due to financial woes. Since launching in 2007, the Rory Beca brand has been stocked by over 400 boutiques and department stores around the world, including Nordstrom, Saks Fifth Avenue, and Neiman Marcus, as well as online at Shopbop and Revolve. It also landed itself a collaboration with fellow LA-based brand, Forever 21, which saw the Rory Beca name enter into the households of larger array of shoppers.
According to a statement from the brand, which had become something of a mainstay for some of the industry’s most famous bloggers (think: the girls behind Sincerely, Jules; Cupcakes & Cashmere; and Something Navy, etc.): “We are a self-financed, family-owned company and it is very difficult to be in the contemporary market without big financing behind you.”
The closure comes on the heels of the announcement last month that New York-based brand Ohne Titel, which was launched by Flora Gill and Alexa Adams the same year as Rory Beca, will also close its doors. The designers, who were two-time CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund finalists and Ecco Domani Fashion Foundation Award winners, were known for their “advanced, techy textile techniques and sporty, futuristic shapes and a way with a fit-and-flare silhouette,” as Vogue quite aptly put it. Gill and Adams told Business of Fashion last month that it was their lack of a “strategic partner” that sunk their ship; they had no external investment. BoF reports that they brought in an annual revenue of $2.5 million last year.
While located on different coasts and certainly putting forth different aesthetics, these two brands have quite a bit in common. Most notably: they are relatively young brands operating at a difficult time. The past several years have hardly been a hospitable time for small, independent designers, and while some are certainly flourishing, as far as we can tell (Joseph Altuzarra launched his label in 2008, the same year as Cushnie et Ochs and Creatures of the Wind – all three of these brands have found backing in some form or another), others have not been as lucky. And unfortunately, it is not terribly shocking, as consumers are not shopping with as much vigor as they used to and as a result, stores are hesitant to take on young(ish) brands, as opposed to well known names with proven track records.
Also note the increasing market share being captured by fast fashion brands. For quite awhile, there was an almost absolute rule that consumers who were shopping high fashion (or luxury fashion) were not dipping their toes into the pool of Zara or COS and the like. This has changed. Wearing head-to-toe [insert designer brand name here] is largely a thing of the past, as consumers do not want to look like a walking mannequin for a brand, and are not “above” looking elsewhere for basics or trendy/season-specific garments.
The threat of the fast fashion retailer is especially vicious for emerging brands, like Ohne Titel, for instance, which are be copied and left with little resource – both legally and even if they did have the law on their side, they’d likely be limited by a general lack of funds to hire legal counsel (because lawyers are expensive and most emerging designers’ funds are tied up in the collections themselves).
In short: It is a difficult environment for emerging design talent for a number of reasons, but financial woes and a lack of business support/direction tend to top the list of reasons for a brand's downfall. The funds that are awarded in design competitions, like the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund, eventually run out, and it is expensive to produce four collections a year and show at least two of them. Moreover, it is not uncommon for self-funded brands to hit a wall at a certain point and need both cash and operational support in order to move forward. Some brands are lucky enough to find this and engage in a partnership of sorts that works (such as Creatures of the Winds’ Shane Gabier and Chris Peters, who partnered with the Dock Group or Joseph Altuzarra, who welcomed an investment from Gucci’s parent company, Kering); others find this and still fail (often due to poor management or differing opinions/views on how to proceed and ultimately, grow the brand), and then there are the ones that simply have to close up shop.
Rory Beca and Ohne Titel join a number of other brands, such as Reed Krakoff and Jonathan Saunders' eponymous labels, Band of Outsiders, Kate Spade Saturday, and Honor, which have all called it quits - in some form or other - in recent years. Running a fashion business isn't easy, after all.