As fashion brands look to adopt more sustainable practices, new luxury handbag brand Novae Res is using technology to make quality handbags in less than 48 hours, with zero waste and no inventory.
The brand, which officially launched on Monday, is using proprietary AI-enabled software, while also training employees as master craftspeople to produce quality, customizable bags in a fraction of the time, said Lane Tabb, founder and CEO of LLABB, the automated luxury manufacturing lab behind Novae Res. The technology accelerates product production and ships products to customers within 48 hours of placing an order. Eventually, LLABB plans to make the technology available to other brands in the luxury handbag space.
Tabb has worked in fashion and tech for nearly 20 years, including as the senior director of technical design at Kate Spade and design director of footwear, handbags and accessories at Jill Stuart. Her inspiration for Novae Res (and LLABB) came from seeing wastefulness of fashion brands firsthand.
“One of the biggest problems for every company I worked for was they were constantly holding sales or destroying merchandise,” said Tabb. “We ended up with about 70% of the merchandise being marked down or gotten rid of in some way.”
After working in Silicon Valley, including a stint with wearable brand Cuff Wearables, Tabb decided technology could end this cycle. In response, she built AI-enhanced software that, by the second, is able to gauge things like the brand’s raw material inventory, automatically ordering more materials based on orders coming in. That way, the brand will never have too much or too little of anything and can ensure it’s using all fabrics ordered to avoid any scrap material.
LLABB is in the process of filing a patent for the technology that the company will share in detail at the upcoming NRF conference and expo in January so could not share too many specifics. She said the software is a combination of product life-cycle management software (or PLM, to track the life cycle of a product from design to sale), an enterprise resource planning system (or ERP, which can include CRM and supply chain management) and a warehousing system to track goods from the time they enter and leave the warehouse.
“The software streamlines things like figuring out if you have enough rivets for [a handbag design] or if you shipped that package. All of those things right now are in different Excel charts and disjointed. We put them all under one software,” she said. “With this software, we are never below raw materials, we are never chasing raw materials, we are never making a mistake. It’s focused on product development, sourcing, warehousing, logistics — all in one spot.”
One of the real questions with Novae Res, and LLABB, is whether the companies will be able to translate this idea at scale.
“In terms of scaling, the biggest concern across the board is just competition of price. You have fast-fashion brands or even brands that are doing this in a non-sustainable way who can sell their product for cheaper. You need this differentiator, or you’re just another, [higher-priced] brand doing the same thing,” said Shannon Lohr, CEO of sustainable-focused accelerator program Factory45.
Currently, Novae Res is producing one signature bag in small and large sizes. The small style runs for $795, the larger for $895. Each comes in five colors and can be personalized with silver or gold hardware and with the customer’s choice of many straps. Tabb said Novae Res will put out new handbag styles beginning next year.
By early 2020, LLABB plans to work with some midsize luxury brands to manufacture custom, on-demand products for those brands in the same 48-hour time frame with no waste and no inventory. Those would be brands smaller than a Coach, but well known by luxury customers. So far, the company has five brands on its factory wait list, but the company declined to share any specifics.
For now, Novae Res is sort of a guinea pig, said Tabb. LLABB is using the brand to work out any bugs in the software and gauge whether it can keep up with customer demand. Novae Res is backed by XRC Labs — an innovation lab providing capital, Manhattan-based workspaces and mentoring to startups aiming to disrupt the retail industry. Brands working with XRC Labs also receive $100,000 in funding. Novae Res soft-launched in April but only started ramping up business operations this week.
“Our goal is the be the Apple of manufacturing,” said Tabb. Her goal is to create a company, like Apple, that is best in class at what it does from a design and business perspective. For Novae Res, that means building Hermès-quality products at more affordable, luxury prices.