Companies such as Glossier, Mansur Gavriel, and Outdoor Voices take an approach of building strong communities and in turn have become strong players in their respective industries
“The luxury landscape has shifted,” explained Cocoon’s Charlotte Wooding back in August 2016. “Just 15 years ago, luxury brands were defined based largely on their heritage. Now, consumers want to explore and discover a brand for themselves, they want to be involved and become part of the brand story. And above all, they want an experience.”
Emily Weiss, founder of beauty blog Into the Gloss, listened to the conversations and feedback she received from her community of 1.5 million monthly visitors, according to Techcrunch, to create her second business venture, Glossier, a beauty brand that addresses the needs expressed by the women she interviewed for her blog as well as of course, her readers, largely consisting of 18-35 years-old women.
This “digitally-native, community-driven brand,” as Weiss describes Glossier on her blog, started off with the “Phase 1 Set” – four skincare basics for every woman to use in their daily routines. To remain relatable to its customers, Glossier embraced other brands’ products on its social media feeds from day one. Because she knew that every woman had her own beauty formula, mixed with a variety of products of different brands that are right for her, Weiss positioned Glossier products as complimentary to every woman’s existing beauty kit.
In an interview on Forbes’ Million podcast on women entrepreneurs, Weiss confesses, “Every single decision we make takes into account the fact that our customer will become our biggest advocate.” In fact, every Glossier product is designed to be photographed on social media. Glossier works hard with designers to make each product photo-friendly from every angle. When purchased, whether online or in their brand-new NYC showroom, products are packaged with Glossier-themed stickers and a poster; ideal “props” for their customers’ Instagram posts.
Outdoor Voices, like Glossier, is a start-up whose vision was brought to reality thanks to several rounds of funding from Silicon Valley VC’s. Twenty-seven year old founder Tyler Haney, a former athlete and Parsons School of Design graduate, designs technical active-wear suited for “doing things” as her motto simply puts it. The brand aims to position itself as clothing for a fun and easy-going lifestyle rather than binding itself to athletic performance, as often associated with the likes of Nike and Lululemon. Bloggers and celebrities, such as Garance Dore and Lena Dunham have picked up the brand, defining Outdoor Voices as a lifestyle brand relatable to Millennials.
When she took her online brand to brick and mortar, Haney also focused on the importance of creating a space for the Outdoor Voices communities to meet and interact with each other: “We very much look at those physical spots as product and community activation points, so [expect] lots of dog jogs and jogger clubs and Pilates and yoga taking place to bring home this notion of community,” she tells Fashionista. In terms of marketing, the company follows a similar strategy to Glossier’s, offering newcomers “beginner kits” and social media-friendly packaging.
Another much anticipated boutique opening in the digital fashion space was that of Mansur Gavriel. Priced at about $500, their bucket bag rose to fame in 2012 as the “anti it-bag” made of fine Italian leather. Not since Hermès’ Birkin had there been that long of a waiting list.
“We love to play with form, color, line and repetition, so we’re attracted to environments where you can play with these ideas,” explains co-founder Floriana Gavriel to the Observer. In fact, their Soho boutique is a canvas for visitors to snap on Instagram. Their famous bucket bags and shoes showcase minimal aesthetics and vibrant colors. The boutique even features a flower shop to entice potential customers. If they cannot yet afford Mansur Gavriel leather goods, Millennials can experience the brand by buying a bouquet or some Italian sweets.
These “content companies” have kept customer feedback and social media top of mind when creating their products and stores and saw success through e-commerce sales, which is unlikely to change. However, the importance of a physical retail space is undeniable. With only a few pieces to select from, shoppers can buy a starter kit and familiarize themselves with the brands’ identities progressively. They now meet at events in showroom-inspired boutiques and share their experiences on social media sustaining the brands’ authenticity that made them so popular in the first place.
Photo Credits: Mansur Gavriel, Glossier, Outdoor Voices