NY Clothing Line Creates Entrepreneurial ‘Worth’ – Forbes
A number of entrepreneurs are cashing in on a growing phenomenon in high-end fashion: luxury clothing lines that sell direct to consumers through consultants who specialize in matching couture fashion to their clients’ lifestyles and needs.
The consultants create personalized recommendations for clients who are seeking style counsel in addition to luxury goods. They are also adept at tapping into women’s natural affinities to network by featuring the clothing in trunk shows at various boutique locations or via luxury shopping experiences in women’s homes. It is social selling at its best, creating immersive experiences that combine online technology such as the ability to build an “e-closet” with hands-on exposure to the fit and the feel of high-end luxury clothes.
“We call it ‘personalized luxury’,” says Wendy Selig-Prieb, the President of Worth New York, one of the companies that is leading the entrepreneurial charge. For couture clothing, it’s a selling proposition that neither online giants nor high-end retail locations can match. Selig-Prieb shared her company’s strategy with me in a recent visit at the Manhattan headquarters of Worth New York.
Selig-Prieb has an undeniable passion for business and fashion. As I researched her background I learned that she was formerly the CEO of the Milwaukee Brewers team from 1998-2004, a time in which she was Major League Baseball’s only female CEO. She holds a degrees from Tufts University and Marquette University Law School and is an entrepreneur through and through. After departing the Brewers to spend more time with family in 2004, and moving to Arizona, she combined her love of fashion with her natural abilities to network to become one of Worth’s most successful distributors.
In 2012 she became president of Worth New York. As of April of this year, Wendy assumed a new position as President of New Ventures. In this position she is responsible for the marketing, digital, social media and other strategic initiatives for Worth New York and its sister brand, W by Worth. As an organization, the 23-year-old firm is approaching $100 million in annual revenue, selling through a network of approximately 1,200 personal style consultants. Some are making incomes well into the six figures, she says.
Worth is a leading participant in the direct sales luxury apparel sector that also includes brands such as CAbi, Carlisle Collection, and Doncaster. As a whole, the channel is growing rapidly, experts say. The economic downturn of 2008, in particular, propelled a million new sales associates into direct sales of clothing and jewelry, with the total number hovering at about 16 million, according to a recent article in the Wall Street Journal.
When it comes to luxury clothing, Selig-Prieb notes that those who combine a fashion background with a sizeable network and a knack for social selling do best. One of these successful consultants is Lauren Solomon, the image expert I recently engaged with who serves as Director of Business Development for Worth. It was Solomon who connected me with Selig-Prieb.
As we visit, I note that Worth’s model mirrors a trend Forbes contributor J.J. Colao has covered as well: “…instead of taking clothes from, say, Calvin Klein and selling them over the Web, companies are now making their own clothes and creating their own fashion brands. This control allows them to match traditional competitors on quality while undercutting them on price.”
Contributor Ariel Adams has also noted the influx of luxury brands that sell direct to consumers: “Luxury brands with a desire to compete in today’s market must form a close relationship with consumers that involves impressing upon people the value of their brand and what new products are available, and giving them an opportunity to purchase them with ease.”
While some successful consultants cite the opportunity for busy women executives to enjoy “girlfriend time,” the Worth model is based on one-on-one relationships, personalized attention and selection, Selig-Prieb maintains. Solomon agrees, and says that busy and discerning executives are the crux of her own clientele. She also notes that working through a channel such as Worth creates the opportunity to help her clients create looks that are uniquely curated for them, as they are comprised of pieces that aren’t available through traditional online channels or brick and mortar boutiques.
In the case of Worth, the company’s designers create new sets of merchandise four times a year, to correspond with each season. They also design the apparel with consistent palettes and color alternatives (such as “chocolate chip,” “buff,” “geranium” and “sienna”) that are designed to be intermixed as the seasons evolve.
“The executives I work with don’t have the time or the stylistic inclination to create an optimal wardrobe or professional image for themselves,” Solomon says. “This is where I can help. I can assist them in building a wardrobe of choices that are versatile and timeless, that bring out the best in their image and appearance, and can blend in a variety of ways to match their evolving styles and needs.” Like Selig-Prieb, Solomon was wearing and selling Worth clothing to her private clients before representing the company as a business development lead. She thrives in the process of advancing other executives and entrepreneurs and in helping them discover and advance their best selves. And she loves fashion. “I admit, I get excited about the opportunity to expose women to the concept of fabulous, luxury clothing. I also love the opportunity to help the right woman own and cultivate her own luxury fashion business from home.”