A lot has happened since Ellen DeGeneres announced in July 2014 that she had partnered with C. Wonder founder Chris Burch to develop a lifestyle brand. It's now been five full months since ED by Ellen DeGeneres launched — a period during which Gwyneth Paltrow's Goop pop-up got robbed, Reese Witherspoon's Draper James opened a store and Blake Lively's Preserve bit the dust — but the young company has already collaborated with Gap Kids, locked in Bergdorf Goodman as a wholesale client and expanded into footwear through a partnership with Camuto Group. While many nascent brands take a conservative approach to entering new product categories, ED dove into women's apparel, accessories and home goods from the outset, with plans to move into men's, eyewear and home fragrance on the not-so-distant horizon, the team told WWD in May.
Then again, most brands don't have founders with massively popular talk shows and pre-existing social media fan bases in the tens of millions to give them immediate visibility. To get a handle on ED's fast-paced growth and learn what's working so far, I called up the company's managing partner, Marisa Gardini, formerly the president and CEO of Isaac Mizrahi. Here are three things to know about what's going down at ED HQ.
Ellen sets the pace
Much of the drive to move quickly comes from DeGeneres herself, who Gardini describes as a "rocket." ED's design staff includes hires from J.Crew, Madewell and Armani, but DeGeneres reviews and gives feedback on all designs.
"I don't believe we need to spend three years or five years working slowly and methodically on the e-commerce brand," says Gardini. "We want to be a lifestyle brand, and we need to go as fast as she's going."
And, Gardini explains, ED can enter new categories as quickly as it has because it's seen a lot of inbound interest from licensing and retail partners. The key there is choosing partners wisely. "We're always making sure that we're putting together a brand with longevity way after 'The Ellen DeGeneres Show' is gone," Gardini says.
Tailored pants are selling shockingly well
When asked what items have been selling best — with the understanding that ED has only a few months' worth of data to go off — Gardini noted that the site has been doing well across all product categories but that home goods (like throws) and embroidered sweaters have been particularly strong. And considering that tailored pants can be very difficult to buy online, they've been selling remarkably well. "I don't want to say it surprises me, because it's part of [DeGeneres's] look and brand, but the fact that we're selling so many bottoms when others [e-commerce sites] can't, that's great," Gardini says.
The surprise is not just that tailored pants are selling, but that they're not getting returned or exchanged in the volumes Gardini expected. A few things might account for that, she says. One, the Italian fabrics are solid; two, they fit true to size, and the ED team works hard to make sure the product descriptions are accurate; and, third, DeGeneres is so consistent in her own dressing that people can readily imagine how ED brand pants will hang. You can probably picture DeGeneres's preferred trousers in your mind without much help: A slim, tapered fit with some roominess, especially at the hips and thighs. That alone removes some of the unpredictability associated with online shopping.
"The Ellen DeGeneres Show" and ED Ellen DeGeneres are like church and state
While the two occasionally overlap, as when ED was included on the talk show's "12 Days of Giveaway" holiday initiative and when DeGeneres wears the brand onstage, Gardini says the projects largely remain separate. That's probably a good thing for both: "The Ellen DeGeneres Show" has certainly driven a lot of interest to ED, but not all "Ellen" watchers want to be inundated with talk of animal print apparel. So DeGeneres has pulled double duty on her press engagements, carving out time to stop by Bergdorf Goodman for its ED launch and doing interviews for her book on interior decorating, "Home," which came out in October.