When it comes to developing or overseeing a clothing line, buyers and retail owners are among the best people to consult. They're clued into important things like what shoppers are looking for, exactly when they're looking for it and how much they're willing to pay. It's no wonder then that brands are increasingly putting seasoned buyers in top roles (see: Tomoko Ogura at Vince and Sarah Rutson at Dutch LLC).
This is also why the in-house lines at multibrand retailers are often excellent — especially at smaller, more independent ones where there's not much separation (if any) between the person doing the buying and the person conceptualizing or designing the in-house line. Another bonus: In-house lines are often more affordable than the retailer's third-party brands because there's no middle man, as the pieces are being sold directly to the consumer. And because they're made to sell — not just gain editorial placements and red carpet credits — they're actually wearable and covetable.
One of my favorite examples right now comes from San Francisco-based e-commerce gem Lisa Says Gah. The site started as a blog to highlight designers who were making an effort to manufacture things ethically, then began selling a cutely curated range of items from such designers; in June, it launched an in-house line of items all made in California using deadstock fabric. The site has a feature called "Muse Monday" where it highlights a stylish girl from Instagram and her picks from the site. Lead designer Kara Thomas culls inspiration from this, vintage items and looking at what's missing from the site's existing offering. The price point is a big part of the equation as well: the most expensive item is $110. "It's our great challenge, to offer near to 'fast-fashion' prices while offering more sustainable, locally manufactured pieces,” says founder Lisa Bühler.
These collections are also smart business moves for retailers. Steven Alan recently announced a pivot to focus on his in-house line, and despite launching very recently and comprising only six styles, Bühler says her line already makes up 15 percent of the company's sales and will soon expand into footwear and other categories.
Around the same time, Los Angeles-based boutique and e-commerce site Shop Super Street launched Ciao Lucia, the brainchild of founder Lucy Akin, previously the head buyer for LA's Satine. The new line of chic, unfussy, easy-to-pack resortwear was inspired by Akin's time studying abroad in college and love of old Italian and French New Wave films. "When I opened Shop Super Street, all of my brands had their own identity, but nothing was like my dream closet," she says. "So I kind of pulled the two together to create Ciao Lucia." Her experience with Shop Super Street, whose online sales are largely driven by Instagram, proved invaluable when it came to merchandising and marketing. "I had so much experience on creating content and photos that really make someone want something," she notes. Last month, the line made up 20 percent of SSS's sales, and this month, Akin says it's on track to make up 50 percent. She also has plans to start wholesaling the line in the future. "It's definitely a breath of fresh air in these current retail times," she adds.
Something else many of these lines have in common — and that other brands might want to take note of — is that they aren't especially seasonal and don't follow the traditional delivery schedule. Akin releases three-to-five styles per month, some new, some old. "I don't really like the seasonal model that fashion's on; I don't think it works for retailers anymore," she says. "So we've been doing a lot of recutting of the same styles that people really like and just want to see more of." Lisa Says Gah has a similar approach.
Of course, these are just a couple of the new examples of a model that's been working for other cool, multi-brand boutiques and e-commerce sites for years, and that we'll continue to see for years to come. Read on for nine of our favorites that you should know about if you don't already, and our current top choice from each one.
Lisa Says Gah
Need by Need Supply
Permanent Collection by Of a Kind
La Garconne Moderne
Maryam Nassir Zadeh