Warby Parker's thinking big.
Having just closed its latest round of financing, eyewear startup Warby Parker can now count American Express and J.Crew CEO/retail guru Mickey Drexler among its investors, New York Times Dealbook is reporting. NBD.
The investment comes at an interesting time in Warby Parker's growth. In addition to its secretive partnership with Google Glass, the primarily ecommerce-driven company is about to open its first permanent brick and mortar store in NYC's Soho neighborhood.
Retail being Drexler's area of expertise, the Warby Parker team has reportedly been regularly lunching with the J.Crew head honcho to "chat about their retail ideas."
“We’ve tried to be very deliberate in getting people with specific expertise,” Neil Blumenthal, one of WP's four Wharton-educated co-founders, told the Times. “Nobody knows retail like Mickey."
While we'd venture to guess Jenna Lyons's signature specs are far out of our price range, there's no denying her thick-framed aesthetic has become ingrained in J.Crew's DNA (look at any J.Crew catalog style guide/fashion week presentation for proof). In other words, this relationship makes a lot of sense. Still, it's unclear how it will manifest. Blumenthal says there are no plans to sell Warby frames through J.Crew, as its focus remains on selling directly to the consumer (which it's good at).
Interestingly, The Times alleges that Warby investors consider the company a lifestyle brand rather than simply an ecommerce company, "a brand poised to become the next Tory Burch" even.
Which we kind of get. There are a million places to buy glasses, affordable and non. People who can likely afford more expensive frames--from Ivy Leaguers to fashion editors--go to Warby Parker, and not necessarily just because of the buy a pair, give a pair business model (there are a million other companies doing that too). People have bought into the company's hipster-preppy brand. Which is how a lot of people describe J.Crew (for what it's worth, I'm wearing both J.Crew and Warby Parker at this very moment).
So, we wonder: Could Drexler's brand portfolio become a trio? J.Crew, Madewell, and Warby Parker? All we know is we're really excited to see what they do with brick and mortar retail. We think it will be good.