We all know consumers are choosing to shop online over physical stores in increasing numbers, but massive, all-encompassing e-commerce platforms like Amazon, Net-a-Porter, Shopbop and Revolve are not everyone's cup of tea.
Many shoppers (myself included) find those sites overwhelming and — despite their attempts to alleviate that with #content — prefer a more curated e-commerce experience. Fortunately, several specialty retailers have cropped up online in recent years providing more approachable, niche, often minimalist alternatives to the mainstream shopping avenues. Need Supply, La Garçonne, The Line and Totokaelo are a few standby examples, but they all have brick-and-mortar counterparts. One exception that serves up clothes, housewares and beauty products with a very specific point of view is The Dreslyn.
The Downtown Los Angeles-based e-commerce site has literally everything that anyone hoping to attain a certain cool, understated, subtly artistic vibe — from their clothes and accessories to their beauty look and home — might need. A go-to for brands like Baserange, Rachel Comey, Jesse Kamm and Raquel Allegra, The Dreslyn aims to bring this very Los Angeles, laid-back but still refined lifestyle to aging hipsters everywhere.
LA-native Brooke Taylor Corcia embarked on this mission by launching The Dreslyn in 2013 after an influential stint as a buyer at luxury e-commerce site Ssense in Montreal, where she helped lead the retailer’s expansion into womenswear. "We grew 400 percent in three years from starting at a very entry price point to working with the Givenchys and Yves Saint Laurents and just growing their market in that direction. I fell in love with this whole business model," says Corcia of her first experience in the e-commerce world. She saw room for innovation, though, based on how she observed shoppers discovering new pieces. "People were sharing much more one-to-one and really valuing that opinion of their peers, I think," she says. "A lot of the business we were working with, including Ssense, who have a phenomenal business on their own, but [also] the Net-a-Porters and the Shopbops and the big boys were sort of following a department-store model where they're very much about educating the client and talking to them from the top down."
She didn't see a destination for women who have their own distinct sense of style. "They have a point of view, they know how to dress, and they just want to find products that reflect to them a sense of who they are," she says. "LA really was a voice that wasn't getting a lot of attention." Athleisure may be especially popular on the West Coast, but there are plenty of women who don't fit that stereotype. Corcia explains the LA look thusly: "There are so many stylish and really incredibly dressed and elegant people who layer differently. They mix more tailored styles that on the East Coast would go all the way structured, and they like ease it up a bit. Nobody wears heels out here. It's very flats-oriented. There's a very different perspective that wasn't being really explored in the online space."
Corcia also noticed that there wasn't a strong specialty-store presence online, so she moved back home from Montreal to start The Dreslyn — a modern-day family business — with her husband and brother. The site has expanded since then, but rather than become saturated with too many brands and styles, it has brought the same curated, specialized approach to additional categories including home and beauty, the latter of which Corcia says has seen the fastest growth. On the home front, you'll find everything from Instagrammable candles and incense holders to Cold Picnic bathmats to Margiela champagne buckets. Beauty-wise, there are shelfie-worthy skin-care and cosmetic products by the likes of Rodin and Oribe, and nail polish from J.Hannah.
Corcia also notes that, perhaps as a result of that well-defined point of view, The Dreslyn's customer retention rate is super high. "There's a conscientious choice of determining whether [a new brand or style] fits within the scope of what we're doing. I think the customers feels that," she says. Her shoppers also tend to gravitate toward wearable items that are timeless rather than those in line with a current trend. Well, unless you count the so-called "Millennial pink" as a trend. After black, Corcia says the site's best-selling color is blush — it even outsells white.
As of now, there's no intention of taking The Dreslyn concept into the physical world, at least not in a permanent capacity. "I think that maybe an event-based store, limited time, could be something, but [we plan to expand] mostly into other categories and just deepening our reach and our exposure," she says. She wants her business to be a top-to-bottom lifestyle resource for her cool, late-20s to early-40s customers. "You look at what's happening in their lifestyle. There's a lot of people having children or have friends who are having kids or are raising children. I think that's an interesting category," she says. "Menswear, certainly there is a complement to the women that we're talking to."
Corcia laughed when she mentioned wanting to take The Dreslyn to "world domination," and while that may run counter to her focus on maintaining a niche point of view, that point of view is, despite being LA-inspired, not location-specific. If The Dreslyn can own that aesthetic across categories and continue to keep up with the rapidly changing retail landscape, growth is not unlikely. But with a growing number of retailers catering to minimalists online, and with more fashion companies making a push to diversify into home and beauty, it may have some competition along the way.