Scaling Retail on the Go: From Paris Market to Retail Convos in NYC

It’s been a whirlwind five weeks away from home, and it’s great to be back home in Los Angeles!

Here’s a brief recap of everything that went down…

PARIS 

TRANOÏ and MAN/WOMAN

I made my yearly trip to Paris Market, attending both the TRANOÏ and MAN/WOMAN shows. I had the chance to meet up with one of our new clients, the founder and creative director of the shoe brand, Atiana. 

What was most interesting was that it was the first time I’d seen so many women’s designers there. It’s normally most menswear with a few womenswear designers here and there. It was a really smart and savvy move on the behalf of those designers, showing in some of the less crowded venues gave them the opportunity to get in front of specialty stores. Whereas bigger stores typically attend all markets, smaller stores only usually have a single buyer and maybe an assistant buyer. This way, the brands capitalized off of the opportunity to catch them while they were in town.


Meeting with Dries Van Noten’s Communications Director 

I’ve always loved Dries Van Noten, who doesn’t?! It was so exciting to get a chance to sit down for a brief chat with their communications director to chat about different perspectives on reinvesting in brands and spending on advertising. There’s a common, glamorized idea that you need to launch and go big right away, but his perspective is that you can actually build slowly over time- and it’s true. There’s no right or wrong way. It just comes down to knowing what you want for your business now and what you have in mind for your endgame. 

Build a small atelier and grow it over time or grow your business fast by spending a lot of resources on digital and other marketing strategies to play a bigger game: it’s up to you. Your business should reflect your vision of what you’d like your brand to be.

NEW YORK CITY

Dining with Retail Insiders (and Friends!)

I met a great group of colleagues and friends for dinner, all of whom happen to be in retail: a friend from Ann Taylor, one from Thomas Pink, one from Roberto Coin and Steven Alan of his namesake retailer’s fame. We talked a lot about the resale market*, alternative business models and drop shipping.   

drop shipping is something a lot of retailers want to test out, but it’s a lot more challenging for smaller brands. I posed these questions to the group:

  • Could a brand launch as a pure-play dropshipper? 
  • What kind of infrastructure would be necessary? 
  • Would it be profitable?

Steven actually launched drop shipping at J.Crew and Madewell. It worked well because it was for domestic U.S. orders only between domestic U.S. brands. However, when it comes to global drop shipping models, things start to get a lot more challenging. Meanwhile, my friend from Roberto Coin, speaking from the expertise of someone in the very high-end jewelry sector, says drop shipping isn’t a viable, scalable business model.

On another note, we imagined some of the new ways businesses can come into being. Direct-to-consumer (DTC) is hot now, but what if the next wave to follow will be lifestyle and fashion brands operating purely on other non-traditional business models like dropshipping?

Dinner with the CEO of Amour Vert 

I also had the chance to dine with the CEO of Amour Vert. The investors basically had to buy out the founders of the company. It’s fascinating as a business owner to think about how long you plan to be of value to your company, how you end up shaping your business over time and how your role of engagement evolves as you scale up over time. In some cases, you may not want the business to be big and find it’s growing faster than you ever imagined, maybe even surpassing what you can personally contribute

As a business owner, ask yourself – time and time again: Where do I want this business to go and what are my core competencies? Your business is like a child, there’s a point where it will grow beyond you. And, in many cases- you may have no idea exactly what your business will turn into in the future.

Their CEO had to handle the fallout and of course there was a lot of pressure for the company as a young, hot brand on the market. Sometimes these tough decisions have to be made and then it’s just a matter of handling them in the best ways possible. Amour Vert is dazzling the industry, they have excellent brick-and-mortar stores, they’re winning at catalog mailers and they’re doing an incredible job with marrying sustainability and old school clienteling. 

A Meeting with Nanette Lepore 

It was a pleasure to meet Nanette Lepore again! She sold part of her business, and that’s something you always want to be really careful about before making that decision. You don’t know the direction they’re going to take your business in and you’ll have to cede plenty of control. In Nanette’s case, she no longer has creative control over assortment planning, though she’s still involved. Again, as I mentioned earlier about the ways to launch and scale fashion businesses, this is a purely personal decision. As the founder, think about your vision, think about your long-term game plan and then decide if it will be worth it or not. Besides the cases in which you don’t have a choice, think about the type of role you want to play and figure out how to achieve it in a way that makes sense.*Will you be in Vegas for market this August? We’d love to see you at one of my presentations on the resale market!

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