When a multibrand retailer launches an in-house line, it enters with a wealth of knowledge about the shopping habits and preferences of its existing customers — that's one of the reasons retailers like to do it, alongside promises of thicker profit margins.
Online-native women's shop ModCloth has an even greater advantage going into it, thanks to its distinctly active and vocal community of loyal shoppers, who readily post reviews and outfit photos of their purchases. The company dipped its toes into the private label biz several years ago with a program called Make the Cut, through which customers could submit designs that were voted on by the community; the most popular designs were then produced and sold. The company has brought that same spirit of collaboration to its first full-fledged in-house line, which launches officially on Thursday.
In addition to her other duties, ModCloth co-founder and Chief Creative Officer Susan Koger now oversees a design team of three fashion designers and four technical designers that work on the fit of the line. The manufacturing is done in Chinese factories that the company has been working with for the past few years. While the collection isn't technically crowdsourced, Koger says that she and her design team looked primarily to customer feedback when conceiving the collection, developing features those customers love, like fit-and-flare silhouettes and pockets.
Fit has also been a big focus, and on Thursday the company is officially opening a pop-up "Fit Shop" in San Francisco's Union Square to both test the brick-and-mortar waters and get feedback from shoppers about, duh, fit. ModCloth has a large plus-size customer base and Koger says the majority of styles will be available in sizes ranging from XS to 4X. She encourages shoppers who buy the new collection to leave feedback and suggestions because she is "really listening." New collections will be released every month.
Much has been made of ModCloth's growing pains over the past year. As many as 120 employees have been laid off — a consequence, in part, of trying to grow too fast.
Koger says the challenge in developing this line has been in knowing what not to do. "You have so many ideas and so many things we want to execute and bring to our customers that one of the biggest challenges is taking a step back and saying, what can we do and do it really well?" she explains. "Each piece has a reason for existing and each piece is going to, I hope, become a staple and a favorite in our customer’s wardrobe."
See more of the looks from the first collection below.