When Of a Kind launched its online store for local, handmade fashion and home goods in 2010, there was little to compare it to. Fast forward four years, and the space has suddenly become crowded, with online retailers from Blake Lively's Preserve to Zady stocking many of the same designers, and encouraging shoppers to "buy local" and "buy less, but better."
"There is a very positive angle to the fact that there are a lot of businesses popping up in our space," says Of a Kind co-founder Claire Mazur. "The market needs to grow. In the last 10 years, we've seen a disappearance of the middle market between fast fashion and luxury -- people forgot there was something between a $20 and a $2,000 dress, and that something is a $200 dress that lasts a little longer, that is made in ways that you feel good about. Businesses are popping up in response to the fact that people care about the quality and origin of things they're buying."
What allows Of a Kind to stand apart is its voice, says Mazur. "Of a Kind is such a personality-driven business. [We] are the face and voice behind it, and knowing that no one can ever be us, replicate our voice or point of view, helps us navigate. So much of our business is driven by our personal instincts."
That's part of the reason why Of a Kind is launching a website redesign on Monday that brings content to the fore. Visit a product page, and beneath the requisite product description and photographs is a quote from the designer that teases you to read a full profile. Scroll further, and you'll be prompted to consume more lifestyle features -- from the delights of south SoHo to a history of the oxford shoe.
Another focus of the redesign is better merging limited-edition merchandise -- which makes up the majority of Of a Kind's $1.2 million in revenue (in 2013) -- with full-time inventory. "We're changing the way people shop our site," says Erica Cerulo, Of a Kind's second co-founder. "Before, when we only had Editions, the majority of customers were really shopping from their inboxes. Now we do have deeper inventory and more products from each designer, and people can come to shop looking for something, a dress or a necklace."
Jewelry is Of a Kind's best-selling category, Mazur and Cerulo say, and home is one of its fastest-growing. Full-time staff is now up to four and the company was cash-flow positive last year. Let's hope that the holidays fare better for them than other U.S. retailers.