50 digital native brands reinventing fashion

Warby Parker
Warby Parker

Arguably it started with eyewear at Warby Parker, but has continued through to impact everything from beauty products to luggage, shoes, mattresses and beyond.

We’re talking about the direct-to-consumer business model that has taken the industry by storm – the digital-first brands that both consumers and investors increasingly want to get their hands on.

From Warby you have Everlane, Away, Glossier, Casper and more. In fact, 50 of them from North America appear in a new list published by The Lead, a New York-based research, publisher and event series focused on empowering the fashion industry’s transition to digital centricity.

The Foremost 50, as those on the list are being called, are the digital native brands that are reinventing and redefining the future of the fashion and retail industry, according to The Lead’s founders, Timo Weiland and Noah Gellman.

Gellman refers to them as category-defining companies that have been propelled by significant investment. “To put this list together we looked at business model innovation, marketing efficiency, exposure to competition, capital efficiency and the reinvention of traditional brand and retail practices. We wanted to know not just who are the best companies, but who will be tomorrow’s category leaders while creating significant value for their investors,” he explained.

The list details what each brand does and the kind of investment they’ve already achieved, from razor brand Harry’s $474.6m to consignment site, The RealReal’s $288m. It also outlines who the founders and CEOs are behind each business, or the “rule-breakers, risk takers and visionaries” driving things forward, as Gellman refers to them.

The 50 will be celebrated at The Lead Summit on October 24 in Brooklyn, where TheCurrent’s founder, Liz Bacelar, will be interviewing Eleanor Morgan, chief experience officer at mattress brand Casper. She’ll also be presenting TheCurrent’s view on retail innovation for 2019.

e-commerce Startups

Start-up spotlight: Stylyt


Greater consumer participation in today’s brands is a trend that shows no sign of abating. In fashion of course, that’s a huge opportunity, meaning it comes as no surprise to hear there are a number of start-ups exploring the co-creation space. Stylyt, is one such example, a brand new launch that stands out for the fact it’s already working with known designers like Timo Weiland in its offering to consumers.

Founded by Nina Cherny and Jenny Wu, this “collaborative design” site enables its members to explore certain design templates offered from the upcoming collections of designers like Weiland, and customise their colour, print or fabric.

Better yet, however, they can also then potentially own them. Everyone’s submitted designs are pitched against each other in a series of galleries online (as pictured below) from which they can be voted for by the community. The ‘winning’ style from each collection is then made into limited edition pieces and sold exclusively on the Stylyt site.

As the tagline reads: “Play fashion designer for your favourite brands.”

Weiland for instance is offering up a basic backpack shape (as pictured), to which users can adjust the colour of the canvas, the colour of the leather straps and flaps, and even the colour of the ponyskin on the front pocket.

Alongside Weiland’s bags so far, are also summer dresses by Lovers+Friends, wallets and clutch bags by Hayden-Harnett and a series of dresses and tops by Torn by Ronny Kobo. New collaborations are set to open every week.

“By giving consumers a voice in the creative process, brands get to promote their collection to fans who feel involved and appreciated, leading to higher loyalty and meaningful sales,” said Wu.

I chatted to her to find out a bit more information:

How did you establish the relationships you have with each of the designers?

“Our fantastic brand partners either come through our industry connections or traditional routes, such as trade shows and showroom visits. These digitally-savvy, forward-thinking brands understand that by embracing customer input, they can gain loyal customers for life. Timo Weiland, one of our anchor brands, is quoted in our press release as saying ‘We’re obsessed with the technology behind [Stylyt], so this will be a great exercise for us’.”

Customisation often gets complicated once it comes to the manufacturing side. How are you handling this?

“Once winners go on sale, we place a custom wholesale order with each brand. We act as any other e-tailer here, except we sell exclusive, limited-edition pieces from the brand’s upcoming collection. The brands love this because we are not discounting past season’s merchandise, so we’re not diluting their brand.”

Such a system must also provide you with a lot of data. Might this be used to help inform design in the long-run?

“After each collaborations ends, we provide brands with campaign metrics that include trend data from our designs and voting results. For example, we’ll be able to show which colors or combinations were the most popular with which demographic, etc. Our voting model is set up in a way to detect trend patterns over time.”

What are your long-terms plans for scaling?

“We see Stylyt as THE platform for branded collaborations. We plan to expand to new verticals that are design-driven (i.e. home decor, beauty), as well as increase the scale of our collaborations. Soon, you’ll see entire capsule collections designed on Stylyt, or perhaps see Stylyt powering the next fashion reality show. Either way, we’re enabling brands and consumers to connect more directly, a trend that shows no signs of slowing down!”