Among the backers are Mortimer Singer of Marvin Traub Associates; Stephen Sadove, former Saks Fifth Avenue CEO; Jason Taubman Kalisman of Talisman Investments, and venture capital firm Rothenberg Ventures.
Jennie Baik, Georgie Benardete and Julia Wetherell.
Orchard Mile, an online marketplace devoted to designer and contemporary collections and backed by some prominent industry figures, launches today with 30 women’s labels including Oscar de la Renta, Roland Mouret, Derek Lam, Carven, Tamara Mellon and Misha Nonoo.
The new Web site strives to make shopping easier and faster and re-create digitally a Madison Avenue or Rodeo Drive-type experience, while bolstering designers’ revenues and margins.
Among the backers are Mortimer Singer, chief executive officer of Marvin Traub Associates; Stephen Sadove, former Saks Fifth Avenue chairman and chief executive officer; Jason Taubman Kalisman of Talisman Investments, an arm of the Taubman family, and Rothenberg Ventures, a Millennial venture capital firm where Fran Hauser, former president of digital at Time Inc., is a partner.
Joseph Boitano, a former top merchant at Saks and Bergdorf Goodman, hired last June by Lands’ End as executive vice president, chief merchandising and design officer, is serving as an adviser.
“Brands do not do enough business on their own Web sites and they don’t always love how their brands are presented on other corners of the Web,” said Singer, who also serves as chairman of Orchard Mile.
Orchard Mile, Singer added, maintains the integrity of the collections by presenting them in full, and in the manner intended by the designers since Orchard Mile utilizes photos, assets and copy provided by the brands.
“This is an opportunity for people to shop in a luxury environment the full assortment of a brand and edit it the way you want to. If you go to Neiman Marcus or Saks, you are getting their edit of the brand. They don’t buy the entire assortments,” said Sadove, who is a cofounder of the Traub Accelerator division of Marvin Traub Associates, which is focused on linking brands, designers, retailers, restaurants and other sectors with new technologies.
“The promise of Orchard Mile to the consumer is to deliver complete collections from all of your favorite designers in one place. They have figured out a way to do this that is brand-friendly and scalable through technology,” said Hauser of Rothenberg Ventures.
Running the Web site’s day-to-day operations are three entrepreneurs and cofounders of Orchard Mile: Georgie Benardete, head of strategy and a cofounder of Shopbeam; Julia Wetherell, creative director and former ceo and founder of MyDrobe, and Jennie Baik, ceo and former head of strategy for Burberry Americas.
Last April, WWD broke the news about Orchard Mile, which has been in beta testing for about a month.
For luxury consumers, Orchard Mile represents an alternative shopping venue with some advantages. For one, women can shop different designer collections quickly. There’s a shared shopping cart, so items from different designers can be purchased together in a single transaction. “People don’t want to enter their credit cards in ten different environments. It takes time,” said Singer.
Free shipping and returns are being offered, and there is an element of personalization. Shoppers can create a virtual edit of their favorite designers and brands through My Mile, a personal online shopping street that updates them on new items available from their preferred brands. For example, if a woman lists Oscar de la Renta gowns on her My Mile, then she receives notifications on new gowns by the designer or perhaps a special event with the de la Renta company. “The consumer knows who she is and what she likes and can mirror that on My Mile,” explained Wetherell.
“It’s really about the ease of use and a mix of contemporary and luxury designers,” said Baik.
Orchard Mile also has an element of suggested shopping, by informing shoppers of other designers available on Orchard Mile that could conform to their personal preferences and style.
When shopping Orchard Mile, “You feel fully immersed in the brand,” said Wetherell, noting that each designer features videos of ad campaigns and runway shows, as well as look books and company histories. Wetherell said that there is an Orchard Mile template so that each designer or brand has a consistent format, but the content is all theirs. “We’re really bringing control back to the brands,” she said.
Consumers can shop the site by designer, by category, or by the “walk the mile” format presenting the fashion point of view of a person of note. For the first few weeks, Baik, Benardete and Wetherell will be giving their points of view.
There is also a window shopping format, for a quick glimpse at four of the latest looks from each designer or brand. It’s like a teaser, to encourage serious shopping.
If a particular item is sold out on the designer’s own Web site, the item will be indicated as not available on Orchard Mile in real-time, the founders said. Orchard Mile does not own any inventory and, according to sources, will keep 25 percent of the sales generated by the site, though that enables the brands to keep more of their margin than if they were selling to a department store.
“The risk and reward in the traditional wholesaling relationship is broken. We think the marketplace business model allows the risk and reward to be better balanced,” said Alex Bolen, ceo of Oscar de la Renta. “This digital model marketplace that Orchard Mile is pursuing, others are pursuing too. There are variations.”
While providing a different online experience, Orchard Mile will compete on some level with such online marketplaces as Farfetch.com, which connects over 300 retail boutiques selling designer labels, and Lyst, which has a mix of retailers and brands, as well as retailers selling designer brands in stores or online, such as Saks, Neiman’s or Bergdorf’s.
Bolen said his company is willing to participate with different online marketplaces to determine those that play best with consumers. But he also said that the Orchard Mile marketplace, aside from allowing de la Renta to do what it does best, like “delivering inventory on a timely basis,” brings “a highly qualified audience to the table.” According to Benardete, the target audience is “women who lead extremely active lives, have a lot of experience, appreciate fashion and want to find it fast.”
Over time, more brands are expected to be added to Orchard Mile, and it’s possible that the offering goes beyond just women’s merchandise. Clothing, shoes, handbags, accessories and jewelry are currently offered. Emerging brands are being identified as well, through the help of a fashion and trend consultancy in Paris called Lux & Bee.
It’s also seen as a way to drive shoppers to the designer stores. Many users are expected to view the site to learn about designers and gather information about products, and then head to the stores to try on clothes and actually purchase.
“It’s about brands coming together in a collective to reconnect with clients,” said Bernadete. Other labels on the site are Temperley, Yigal Azrouël, Alexis Bittar, Dagmar, Equipment, Joie and Pamela Love.
Orders received via a transaction on Orchard Mile won’t have any Orchard Mile identification, only the designer packaging. But Orchard Mile will e-mail a confirmation of the order to help track it, and will send another e-mail after the package is delivered as a follow-up to gauge the service.
“We do have a strong marketing strategy,” said Baik, explaining that it entails search engine optimization, public relations, social media and working with many brands themselves to post their events on Orchard Mile and inform their clients about the new site. In addition, Orchard Mile has a list of 30,000 potential customers, compiled from data bases of Singer’s and at Marvin Traub Associates and Orchard Mile.
Orchard Mile is based in New York and has a team of about 25 including digital merchandisers, software engineers and tech support. Executives said there is zero I.T. integration involved with designers joining the site.
The site is named after Singapore’s retail and entertainment shopping district Orchard Road and such shopping stretches as Chicago’s Miracle Mile and the Miracle Mile in Manhasset, Long Island.
Officials declined to provide a projected volume, but as Sadove said, “We’re starting small. We’ve got to build a critical mass. Marketplaces don’t build overnight. It’s going to take a while.”