First comes e-comm, then comes a pop-up, then comes the 10-year lease in the hip, young neighborhood. For many fashion brands born online, the path from a purely online presence to real world retail is a well-trodden one, variously spiced up with exercise classes or traveling showrooms built in school buses. Cuyana, a women's label that launched in 2013 with a focus on simple, appealing accessories and now has a growing ready-to-wear business, is the latest to put down roots offline, having opened its first permanent store last Saturday on Abbot Kinney Boulevard in Venice Beach, California.
In the same way that Cuyana tested the fit and styles in its silk-heavy apparel collection by introducing small product runs to its shoppers before releasing the full range last year, the move to brick-and-mortar was rather methodical. ("We never launch anything without testing it," says co-founder and CEO Karla Gallardo.) Since the beginning, Cuyana has housed a showroom in the anterior portion of its San Francisco headquarters, a cost-efficient way to meet customers and understand their preferences. The brand opened a five-day pop-up store in New York last year and another in Venice that lasted six weeks. The trials confirmed a few things: One, that Californians have a higher tolerance for bright colors than black-loving New Yorkers do, and two, that Venice is an ideal spot for a lasting presence. There, Cuyana's store sits in the brand-appropriate company of yupster institutions like Aesop and Blue Bottle Coffee.
Despite the slight regional differences in the Cuyana customers' tastes, their profiles are roughly the same: Affluent, educated, with a taste for yummy-but-functional leather totes and camel-toned alpaca scarves. And the store is meant to feel like that woman's living room. It's clean, with comfortable seating, espresso and sparkling water. To ramp up the feeling of intimacy, there are monogramming services available on-site.
The point is to linger and hang out — the ultimate coup in lifestyle-focused retail experiences and a goal reiterated over and over by brands like Kit and Ace and Lululemon, which this month opened a massive Manhattan flagship that features a basement level with couches (for movie screenings) and long co-working tables (for jamming out on start-up ideas). Attractively designed and well lit, it's great for Instagramming, and nobody out for a day in the city ever said no to a welcoming perch with Wifi. Does a space designed for kicking back convince people to buy more? It certainly can't hurt.