When developing Wardrobe NYC, their luxury clothing line launched on Thursday, designer Josh Goot and stylist Christine Centenera dismissed every idea that’s become synonymous with high-end fashion.
“We feel disconnected from the luxury movement, particularly the way it values excess,” explained Goot. “Our values are more in line with the collective consciousness: It’s the culture of less, versus more.”
Goot, who backed a namesake label for a decade, came up with the concept two years ago, after moving from Australia to NYC and becoming inspired by New Yorkers’ “uniform” way of dressing. The idea: A seasonal capsule collection of timeless styles, driven by what people actually wear and need.
He approached longtime partner, Vogue Australia fashion director and Yeezy collaborator Christine Centenera, about collaborating on the line. Driven by the “broken” fashion industry and the challenges she’d seen Goot face while running a traditional collections-based business, she signed on.
“It made sense to try something that challenged the current business model,” she said. “Unless you’re super hot and new, or you’re part of a huge conglomerate that’s hugely successful, it doesn’t work.”
The model for Wardrobe NYC certainly veers from the norm: Goot and Centenera create 16 pieces per collection, eight for him and eight for her, which are sold in predetermined “packs” and made to be mixed and matched: The pack of four pieces is $1,500, and the complete, eight-piece collection is $3,000. The plan is to roll out three or four collections per year.
The first is the “tailored” collection, composed of a T-shirt, a blazer, a shirt, a skirt, a sweater, a blouse, a coat and a pair of leggings for her. The men’s packs mirror the women’s, though they feature a hoodie, trousers and pants, in place of the blouse, skirt and leggings. At least six of the eight pieces are black; the shirt is white, and shoppers can choose a black or white T-shirt.
Next up will be the “sport” collection, composed of essential athleisure-style pieces, followed by “summer tailoring.”
The line’s development and production take place offsite, in a factory in Naples, Italy — a strategic decision by Goot, who long worked in 25-person studios. “I wanted to organize it differently,” he said, “to avoid having overheads at the head office and turning the pursuit into a human resources exercise. This way, we keep the worlds somewhat separate.”
He and Centenera visit the factory to oversee fittings, but spend most of their time in NYC, overseeing a lean team of three: a part-time COO/CFO, an art director and jack of all trades, who works across sales and design.
It’s the first time the couple has worked together, and — for the first collection, anyway — it’s been an equal partnership, with both weighing in on most every decision. “We haven’t defined the divide yet,” admitted Goot.
It’s also Centenera’s first stab at heading up a brand, though she called the role a natural next step. “As a stylist, you work with a design team, you’re present in fittings, you have a very strong say on color palettes and silhouettes, and you work closely with the designer,” she said. “Most of the best brands have great stylists behind them.”
The women’s blouse and shirt, in Wardrobe NYC’s launch campaign
Goot and Centenera self-funded the line for the first few months, but soon found it necessary to seek outside funding. They secured their first rounds through private investors — half of which work in the fashion industry — about six months ago, which resulted in “ramping up” preparations for the launch.
“Everything happens quite quickly, and then you feel safe,” Goot said of the fundraising process.
“Safe, but then there’s a huge amount of pressure,” said Centenera. “Everyone genuinely believes in the idea and believes in us, but all of a sudden, it’s go time.”
To get the word out, they’re counting on a strong Instagram strategy and the support of friends, including designers, stylists and retail executives, many of whom weighed in on the collection during development. (“We like cooking dinner for people, and we’d have friends over, and the samples would always end up coming out,” Centenera said.) In lieu of gifting influencers, they gave their inner circle the opportunity to shop the collection pre-launch at exclusive events. Since, the line has been spotted on Virgil Abloh, at the British Fashion Awards.
“It’s more authentic this way,” Goot said, of avoiding standard pay-to-play influencer marketing. “People love it and they get it, and they want to support it.”
But, whether that enthusiasm will translate to the common luxury shopper remains to be seen.
“People aren’t used to shopping this way, and you have a high price at face value,” said Goot. “We’ve considered that in our web design, in our language, in our imagery. At this point, we’re doing everything we can to just build confidence and trust.”