During day one of Glossy’s three-day Fashion & Luxury Summit in Naples, Florida, industry leaders and insiders compared notes on the big challenges they’re facing and the tactics they’re leveraging to overcome them. Below, we break down two of the day’s big conversations.
Brand building through wholesale
Building a brand from scratch isn’t easy, particularly when digital marketing — the go-to strategy for getting a brand off the ground for the last decade — has become increasingly expensive.
Janessa Leone, founder and CEO of her eponymous accessories brand, told Glossy that one of the strategies she’s used to grow her brand is ensuring she’s never over-reliant on one growth channel.
“We still do digital ads, but I make sure that it’s never more than 15% of our revenue going into it,” Leone said. “Then with email marketing, I make sure it’s never over 20-25%. I have a whole pie chart for all the different channels, and nothing should ever be overexposed.”
Leone said that when she was first getting her brand off the ground in the mid-2010s, wholesale was invaluable. The brand first launched with Barneys before expanding into Neiman Marcus, Net-a-Porter and other wholesale partners, with a DTC channel only added several years later.
“Wholesale was fundamental for us,” Leone said. “We had no money for marketing when we first started, so wholesalers were our biggest leverage of brand awareness and trust. It was such a great opportunity to work Barneys, Nordstrom and Neiman Marcus [early on]. We were adjacent to these big brands, and it was essentially customer acquisition for free.”
Patrick Herning, the founder of luxury plus-size retailer 11 Honoré, which was acquired by Dia & Co. last year, had a similar story about launching 11 Honoré’s first in-house collection. When the collection first dropped, it was exclusively distributed in wholesale through Nordstrom.
“Plus is a really challenging category,” Herning said. “When we launched our first collection, it differentiated us from a pure-play retailer. It was launched through Nordstrom, which helped us tackle the challenge of customer acquisition.”
Affiliate marketing and influencers
During the Summit’s town hall discussion, attendees shared the challenges and obstacles in fashion and beauty that are giving them migraines, and brainstormed potential solutions.
Among the challenges that came up were building an effective affiliate program, working with influencers and getting the most out of those partnerships. Here are a few snippets from the conversation:
“Right now, we’re doing a pilot [affiliate] program with just 30 influencers. We’re trying to develop a tiered program, but first, we need to establish benchmarks. And that’s proving to be really tricky.”
“We look for the people with the most engaged audiences. Micro-influencers are more valuable. I’d rather have someone with 10,000 followers who has engaged and active followers than someone with a million followers, because micro-influencers are the faces of their communities.”
“We vet our potential partners’ audience demographics and make sure they have a high engagement. We also try to align their audience with the markets we’re focusing on. So right now, we’re focusing on the Canadian market — Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal, particularly. So we’re looking for influencers who have audiences in those places.”
“We’ve always had gifting, but we’re only just now adding affiliate. Right now, we’re just gauging who’s interested and who we can entice with gifting alone and a small commission. We’re working with a platform called Grin.”
“Our affiliate program is with influencers up to 15,000 followers. What I’ve found is that I had to reset my expectations a bit. We just started with Shopify Collabs because it’s easy to manage everything, and it’s become a good way to basically guarantee that influencers will post our bundles to their stories.”