You may not have heard of one-year-old lingerie startup Adore Me. We hadn't until two days ago, when the company announced it had just raised a whopping $8.5 million in a venture capital round and had plans to take a big bite out of lingerie behemoth Victoria's Secret's market share. It sounds like an ambitious goal--especially when you consider Victoria's Secret doesn't really have any competitors. But, at the rate Adore Me is going, it's not outlandish. So, yeah, if you don't know them yet--you might want to start paying attention.
Adore Me is a membership-based online-only site that sells the same products as Victoria's Secret--bras, panties, sexy lingerie, sleepwear and swim--except, for the most part, prices are lower ($39.99 for a bra and panty set with the VIP membership) and options are more varied. Adore Me launches an entirely new collection every month, based on seasonal trends, which is why they call themselves a "fast fashion" lingerie brand.
Founder and CEO Morgan Hermand-Waiche (a man, if you were curious), whose family is in the fashion business in Europe, got his MBA at Harvard Business School and decided he wanted to launch a "Zara for lingerie." The reason, he explained to us over the phone this morning, was because of Victoria's Secret's pseudo-monopoly on the market. "Victoria's Secret is a huge incumbent player that has too much presence and there are not enough alternatives for women in America to buy their intimates, plus, Victoria’s Secret is very slow fashion and high price for what they sell."
A new collection every month is pretty ambitious--especially considering the fact that it's lingerie, something that doesn't really change fundamentally from season to season. Hermand-Waiche tells us they have a New York-based team of designers who are "extremely experienced" in lingerie. In fact, the company plans to do a PR push soon in regards to a recent hire on the design front--so stay tuned for that. The lingerie is primarily manufactured in Southeast Asia.
They also do research to determine lingerie trends for any given month, including using a trend forecasting service, and shopping in Europe and watching runway shows to gather inspiration. Mainly, what varies from month to month is color and shape. "When August kicks in, we start to go into more solid colors and then we go more into the darks and reds in November, so we have to follow the color trends and also the shape trends--the more you go towards holiday the more you need to adapt and have more sexy collections."
But it's more than just month-specific color palettes that Hermand-Waiche feels gives Adore Me a leg up on other lingerie companies like Victoria's Secret. At the top of his list is the product, followed by customer experience (like free exchanges in case the size is wrong), followed by easy navigation, followed by diversity of product, followed by price.
Adore Me also has a VIP membership program with features like free shipping and "Your sixth [bra and panty] set is always free" to sweeten the deal. The collection names are a little cheesy ("Sparks Will Fly" and "The Sheer Thrill of Romance") but the product doesn't look bad--certainly no worse than Victoria's Secret.
In its first year (it launched in March 2012), the site's membership grew at an average of 40-50% month over month and hit 100,000 sales. And with this last funding round, that growth will likely continue. Hermand-Waiche plans to use the money on marketing, increasing inventory to meet the demand created by marketing, product research, and more employees.
But could Adore Me one day come to compete with America's most recognized consumer brand in the brick and mortar space? Hermand-Waiche says it's "a bit early" to put that into motion now, but "going forward, it would be a possibility."