This is an episode of the Glossy Fashion Podcast, which features candid conversations about how today’s trends are shaping the future of the fashion industry. More from the series →
Lauren Nouchi and Amélie Brick technically founded their fashion brand, Apparis, in 2016. But it wasn’t until 2018 that it took off, driven by the popularity of a single style: a colorful faux fur coat.
“At the time, it was a third of the price of any competitors,” Nouchi said on the latest episode of the Glossy Podcast.
Along with affordability, quality and style, the coat’s ethical materials made it a draw for both consumers and retailers. Bloomingdale’s was the first to buy into the brand, followed by Saks Fifth Avenue.
“We had no marketing budget, so having our product in those doors helped us grow our visibility and credibility as a brand,” Nouchi said. “It would have taken us years to do that with just our DTC business.”
Today, Apparis continues to sell through retailers including Nordstrom and Elyse Walker, but the founders have upped their focus on direct-to-consumer sales; in 2023, they updated the brand’s website, among other elements, to better tell the brand story and support the direct side of the business.
They’ve also expanded the brand far beyond a coat. According to Nouchi, outerwear currently makes up 50% of the business, followed by winter accessories and home goods at 25% each.
On the podcast, Nouchi discussed Apparis’s evolution and strategies, including its fundraising approach, its prioritization of conscious production and its marketing plans for 2024. Below are highlights from the conversation, which have been lightly edited for clarity.
Refocusing on a hero product
“Our initial mission was to bring affordable, conscious French fashion to the U.S. market. … In May 2016, we launched Apparis.com, and we had a very nice, large selection of French affordable fashion, but we had zero customers. But we came from retail and entrepreneurial backgrounds, so we were not discouraged. … We decided to do many fairs, pop-ups and small events in New York City selling the products we had. … We did this pop-up in Williamsburg in the winter of 2017 that was a game-changer; we had this ‘a-ha’ moment. Part of our assortment in the pop-up was one faux fur coat in four colorways. … We saw true interest from the customer in this faux fur coat; we could see the emotional collection, and we could hear their feedback, telling us, ‘No one is doing faux fur this way,’ and that they hadn’t found such high quality at such an attainable price point. Then — right after the new year, while the pop-up was still open — we had the chance to meet the fashion director of Bloomingdale’s. She just came into the store and bought two coats. … And at the end of meeting with her and telling her our story, she sent us an email saying that Bloomingdale’s would love to see our collection for market 2018. … In 2018, we decided to rebrand and just focus on one product. And that’s where we’ve gained recognition since then. And that’s why we’ve been able to grow the brand and the business.”
“We were not interested in fundraising, at first. However, our main investor was a client of ours — she shopped the line on Moda Operandi. And she kept coming to us, [saying,] ‘When you guys are ready, let me know. I really believe in what you do.’ I promise Emily and I didn’t know a pandemic was about to happen. … But we understood that, while having a strong product is great, in order to scale our business, we needed to build a team and we needed to invest in our direct-to-consumer platform. So we opened up the conversation with our lead investor, and we felt very comfortable. And lucky enough, we closed our seed investment [round] literally two weeks before the pandemic happened.”
Refreshing the brand 5 years in
“We decided to do this brand refresh because we had marked a five-year anniversary. And I felt like — not only internally for the team, but also for our customer — we needed to reset the tone and rebuild our foundation. Because, before, we got recognition for colorful faux fur coats. But our end goal is to be known for conscious fashion. So when you have a new goal and a new strategy, you have to go through your entire business plan, and part of that is your visual identity. So we evolved our logo. Pre-rebrand, it was very bold and loud. … But as we’ve gotten to know our customer, we understand that, yes, our customer is bold, and yes, she’s confident, but she’s also elevated, right? She’s a fashion lover. She’s minimal in her own way. So we wanted that to be reflected through our word mark. And then the second step was the website redesign. Same thing: We wanted something more minimal so that the product could shine. We wanted a look and feel that was elevated so we could speak more about our French heritage, and we also wanted to make sure the customer experience was streamlined and very easy to shop. … [And finally], we worked on our design.”