The Launch of the Small Launch

When I was a retail apparel buyer many years ago, there was a sense that a brand launching its collection needed to have “enough to sink our teeth into”: As merchants, we wanted to see an assortment big enough that we could develop confidence in how it would evolve from season to season and year after year, as we wanted to invest in brands we’d carry over time. If a line started out with too few items, we’d want to see it again the next season to get a better sense for it before we’d pick it up.

How times have changed. The growth of DTC means, of course, that brands don’t need to build their brands with the ultimate objective of landing wholesale accounts. And a consumer generation that leans toward purchasing less apparel is making it smarter than ever for brands new and old to emphasize fewer, higher-quality pieces that are seasonless, versatile, and at least semi-timeless. Achieving versatility is easier now that lifestyles are so much more casual than they used to be.

And I think there’s something else: While it’s tough to keep one’s eye on every new item from a brand that’s shipping so many, it’s manageable to follow a couple of brands to see what they’ve recently dropped. And it’s even more interesting when brands tell a story about each collection.

AYR is a brand that’s small, easy to shop, and leaves me wanting to check back for more. Cuyana seemingly has more selection but, with a focus on basics and quality, encourages consumers to buy “fewer, better things.”

And on the established end of the spectrum, Theory just announced a new approach to merchandising based on quality, not quantity. The upcoming collection will have half of the SKUs and, in their words, is “about being very strategic about the clothing we make, and the curation of the clothes and making everything perfect.”

The best example for me is ADAY. I own a disproportionate amount of what ADAY has made since it entered the market a couple of years ago, and I sometimes visit their site with no e-mail or social prompt to see whether they have anything new. Often, when they do, they’ll share a lot of background about what went into the newest pieces, whether it’s each item having multiple ways it can be worn or every piece being made from recycled material.


ADAY’s current home page