• Anne Heaney, Director

Designer brands are joining the direct-to-consumer fray

Direct-to-consumer brands are now popping up within designer brands.

Brands like Milly, Comme des Garcons and Theory are designing in-house offshoots of their main collections that have all the makings of the digitally native, direct-to-consumer brands that have flooded the market.

The lines are sold through the brands’ direct channels (as either online exclusives or both in stores and online) and not wholesale partners; they’re designed with a trendier, millennial customer in mind; and they don’t abide by the traditional fashion calendar. Instead, they follow the streetwear-inspired drop model of monthly or regular seasonless collections.

Milly’s direct-to-consumer line will launch this spring only in Milly stores and online, with lower prices, shorter production cycles and trendier designs to be released more often throughout the year, outside of the regular fashion calendar. The goal is to push growth past a steady rate of 15 percent annually, get a foot in the door with younger customers, and take back control of the majority of sales: Milly also wants to own the entirety of the data they can collect from a valuable demographic.

Theory 2.0, designed, marketed and merchandised in-house by a group of younger Theory employees across departments, is a similar play for more direct sales driven from a younger customer base. While there’s little information about Comme des Garcons’ upcoming new brand, CEO Adrian Joffe said that it would be sold online-only through the brand’s e-commerce site.

“Direct-to-consumer is one of the most important trends in retail, whether it’s through brick-and-mortar or e-commerce,” said Jane Hali, CEO of retail analyst firm Jane Hali & Associates. “It gives brands more control of their branding and shopping experience.”

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