The Accelerators: The leaders fueling established companies’ catapulted growth
Founder, CEO and designer
For Nili Lotan, who’s owned and operated her namesake luxury fashion brand for nearly 20 years, 2022 was “a year of growth.”
“Despite everything going on in the world, I’m proud that we’ve continued to go strong,” she said. She attributed that to the fact that the brand still runs like a “small company,” including by heavily relying on her intuition and remaining nimble. She’s the brand’s sole owner, serving as both its CEO and creative director. Oh, and she manages the brand’s social media, from posting imagery to answering DMs.
But the company is by no means small. Though sales slowed at the height of the pandemic, it’s consistently seen annual revenue growth of 60-180% from year one. That’s with “very little” marketing and no fashion shows. Lotan projected revenue of $100 million for this year.
According to Lotan, part of coming out of Covid relatively unscathed had to do with the brand’s accessible U.S. production and swift pivot to making sweaters and sweatshirts.
“We got lucky, in a lot of ways,” she said. “But ‘luck’ also [stems] from good judgment and good planning.”
Lotan is now focused on accelerating the brand’s growth: In the last two months of this year, she’ll expand its store count from four to six, with locations opening in NYC and L.A. Also planned before year’s end is a launch into luxury accessories. The brand entered the menswear category in July.
How do you plan to grow your new men’s business?
“We launched men’s with six retail partners, including Mr. Porter, Ssense and Bergdorf’s. And it’s being sold in all our stores; we just launched a men’s [shop-in-shop] within our Tribeca store. It’s doing phenomenally well. So now, I’m just defining, ‘How do I serve men?’ So far, I’ve been doing it through women, with women buying for their men or bringing their [male] friends in to shop. I was quite curious to see if men would walk into a women’s store alone, but they do; they do it at Celine, they do it at Saint Laurent, and they’re doing it with us. So we have no plans to open separate men’s shops. And I think men’s could become a very big component of my business.”
I’ve recently seen accessories inching onto your website. Is that a category you’re leaning into for growth?
“We’re [officially] launching accessories for holiday, and it’s a big launch: handbags, small leather goods, wallets, belts. I’ve already started to dip into bags and belts, and the belts took off immediately. But the bags, which I only sell DTC, have kind of been an experiment: We started with more casual [totes], but the five bags we’re getting ready to launch are the most elegant, gorgeous bags. They’re [made of] croc, suede and leather, and feature beautiful gold closures. I’m going to focus there and see where it takes me.”
Has all this expansion necessitated new hires?
“I just hired a fantastic chief technology officer, who manages e-commerce. I’m very excited about her, because that’s quite a big area of my business that I now know is being taken care of. I also hired a head of sales to manage wholesale [partnerships] and a head of HR. This year has been all about paying attention to the team. I’m seeing what works and what doesn’t, who works and who doesn’t, and building up the strongest team I can, so we can move forward with all these beautiful things we want to do.”
It sounds like you’re hitting reset. How would you describe the company’s direction?
“To me, we’ve already reset; we are now in the new world. Overall, we’ve gone even more luxurious. I’m using more expensive fabrics, and I’m entering categories I haven’t [played in] before and price points I haven’t touched. It’s like, ‘OK, let’s go all the way and take it to the max.’ I’ve been tuning in to what women want, and they want to indulge themselves. So I’m adjusting with them.“
Is international expansion to come, too — or what’s next?
“I definitely love the idea of international. We have a lot of stores that are selling [Nili Lotan] in Europe, so doing my own store in Europe would be the next thing. But I’m not yet sure how I’ll [go about it] — if it’s doing it myself or through a franchise model. As for other plans, I’m not interested in doing kids, and I’m not ready to do home.”
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