A few months ago, luxury e-tailer Mytheresa launched an exclusive capsule collection comprising 46 menswear pieces in collaboration with Gucci – the platform’s biggest menswear capsule collaboration since the launch of this category in January this year. The range featured items with a strong 70’s flair, including wide-legged jeans, double-breasted corduroy jackets and silk ties in psychedelic print.
Thanks to its curated and exclusive selection of products, the German luxury e-commerce marketplace posted a net profit of 21 million euros in fiscal 2018/19, while most e-tailers – like Yoox Net-a-Porter and Farfetch – continue to struggle with profitability. Capsule collections have been a key part of Mytheresa’s product strategy: The platform has worked with brands the likes of Gucci, Brunello Cucinelli, The Row and Christian Louboutin, and this could very well be the secret sauce to its success.
Capsule collections are nothing new in the luxury fashion space, with brands launching collaborations with designers, artists or celebrities every now and then. But working with an established e-commerce retailer brings something slightly different to the table, giving brands something to think about.
For luxury brands, capsule collections that are not bound by seasonality gives them an additional platform and space to exercise creativity, construct styles and weave overarching narratives that are somewhat different from their staple Spring/Summer and Fall/Winter collections. At the same time, collaborating with e-tailers enables them to reach out to a new audience that may or may not be familiar with the brand’s aesthetic, in addition to their existing fanbase.
In the collaboration between Gucci and Mytheresa, the palette and prints used echoed that of Gucci’s Fall/Winter collection. But instead of keeping to the childlike exuberance found in the former, the capsule collection featured Australian electro-pop band Parcels in its campaign imagery and offered a more retro yet dapper flavour.
The capsule collection Prada and Mr Porter released in 2018 was equally impressive. The whole line was centred around the idea of bowling, featuring camp-collar shirts, striped cardigans, derby shoes and checked trousers – all of which bring to mind Prada’s intellectual aesthetic while echoing the familiar sprezzatura of Mr Porter.
As brand crossovers continue to grow in popularity as a way to gain more visibility, collaborations between luxury brands and e-commerce platforms have started to trend as well. Given the aesthetic neutrality of these platforms, brands have the added advantage of working with a clean slate in such collaborations (as opposed to when they choose to work with artists, celebrities, or even other brands). This lessens the burden on the brand in bringing together two different design identities. The overlap in audiences (both the brand’s and the platform’s) may also result in create greater traction.
Indisputably, the concept of a capsule collection is no longer as appealing as it once was. They are no longer like the attention-grabbing but pared down “Seven Easy Pieces” launched by Donna Karen in the ’80s. Instead, the market is now saturated with countless limited edition releases, collaborations and drop series. Consumer fatigue is real, and capsule collections that don’t appear to be starkly different from a brand’s seasonal product line-ups have become tiresome in the eyes of consumers.
This is where e-tailers bring something extra to the table: With hundreds of brands stocked on their site, these platforms have a wide and diverse range of consumers. Given the audience size and advanced data tracking capabilities, brands are afforded a great deal of insight into their target clientele – preferences in styles, colours and cuts for the season; average basket size; and even audience demographics by brand.
Platforms like Mr Porter have taken things a step further and leveraged these insights to launch its own product offering. The leading men’s luxury portal collected shopping data from more than 600,000 consumers over six years, before launching the Mr P. label in 2017, modelled after industry trends, production costs, and detailed customer preferences.
Understandably, building a platform-owned brand is not in every e-tailer’s business plan. But having access to that level of consumer insight is extremely valuable when it comes to designing capsule collections, especially in this day and age where options are aplenty and consumers have limited attention spans. This could prove helpful to brands in developing products that stand out and better appeal to their target audience.
Another benefit of partnerships like these is that they enable brands to test the waters when it comes to e-commerce – without having to fully invest in a whole internal structure and setup. Apart from gauging the viability of the channel for sales of their product lines, such an opportunity could also help the brand in building up its community of online consumers.
While this might seem similar to the benefits gleaned from working directly with e-commerce pure players to retail on their platforms, it should be noted that product collaborations (namely a capsule collection, in this case) suggest an additional element of co-marketing – something that might not be explored at full scale under a consignment or wholesale model, for instance.
With the rise of consumer consciousness and its resulting impact on the fashion industry, capsule collections need to be more than just a whimsical break from a brand’s main collection. They have to consider the discerning consumer and incorporate elements that will enrich the products offered – and e-tailers are giving other collaborators a run for their money. More than just a pure sales channel, these luxury retailers have become a bridge for brands to connect with and better understand contemporary consumers, cultivate their brand image, and even explore new business models.
Cover Image: Bella Lieberberg/Mytheresa. Photo: Courtesy.