MODA OPERANDI: CHAMPIONING NEW DESIGNERS

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There are many things that Moda Operandi does well, but the one setting them apart is perhaps the riskiest, especially in today’s volatile retail market. After seven years solidifying their taste and quality level as one of the best in the business, Moda Operandi has become the go-to destination for launching new brands that are almost guaranteed to be a hit. If not with the press or wider consumer market, most definitely with their target customer. So valuable is the focus on new brands, it has become the determining factor in setting Moda apart from the competition.

“Since launch, supporting new talent has been core to our DNA,” says Jodi Kaplan, Vice President of Non-Apparel: Handbags, Shoes, Jewelry and Home at Moda Operandi. “We don’t rely on major brands to drive the business. So these smaller brands are our point of difference. Our client is willing to trust the brand of Moda and feels confident that we’ll deliver something of a high quality.” Within the past three years, Moda Operandi has been the launch pad for multiple brands that have gone on to become key industry players. M2Malletier and Mari Giudicelli were all nurtured within the Moda Operandi nursery. Most recently, they featured London-based handbag label Danse Lente, without seeing in person prior to committing to a trunkshow. “We saw an instant reaction from the client with Danse Lente,” says Kaplan. “We run trunkshows so there’s no limit to what we can sell. It was a pleasant surprise for us to see how many Danse Lente bags were sold. We committed to the brand before we saw it in person because the pricing was so good and the silhouettes were a wonderful point of difference.”

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Moda’s trunkshow strategy also makes them an attractive partner for fresh designers. Rather than produce a set number of SKU’s, a brand only needs to make the number of bags they sold. It is an excellent way for a designer to see immediate customer feedback vs. relying only on intuition and buyer feedback, and is extremely beneficial for a start-up company with little funds to put towards huge production budgets. Another attractive angle is the exposure and assets that Moda provides. Clean, hi-res images of product photographed on-models, Instagram posts, and marketing emails to Moda’s database are all invaluable, especially to an audience that is seeking something new. “We provide a unique platform for emerging designers of global exposure, marketing support, and of course, sales,” says Kaplan. “Featuring them adjacent to more well-known names establishes Moda as place of discovery for our clients and affords the designers the opportunity to position themselves alongside some of the most renowned names working today. Because we’re an online player we get feedback instantly from the client and what they’re gravitating towards. Then we can take that information and create the content and push that product out with marketing.”

On the consumer’s side, it’s Moda’s selection process that sets them apart from the competition. The Moda Operandi team travels the world to discover new talent, including fashion weeks in Moscow and Sydney. They also rely on Instagram as a search tool and are regularly approached by brands looking for partnership. “When launching a new designer, there are several things that we consider,” says Kaplan. “A distinct design language and impeccable craftsmanship are two key qualities, but we always consider if the aesthetic fits our brand identity as well as our consumer’s lifestyle.” Fine jewelry remains the highest selling new brand category for Moda, in part because the Moda consumer visits the site for eveningwear, then looks to compliment that with jewelry, and then shoes and clutches. In April this year, Moda announced their fine jewelry category had grown 187 percent, and the category’s average order value of $3,000 is 60 percent higher than other categories. Kaplan, who was previously the former vice president, divisional merchandise manager for jewelry and watches at Bergdorf Goodman, has been championing this area. “The growth in jewelry has been remarkable,” she says. “It’s an area in which we’ve been able to create a market segmentation. It’s easier to do that in jewelry because there’s a lot of designers who are creating something new and they don’t necessarily have to have the whole corporate entity behind them.” Moda has also noticed a surprising rise in smaller accessory categories, such as belts, hats and sunglasses. During a recent Johanna Ortiz trunkshow, the brand’s sold over 100 units of belts, which was more than bags or shoes. “Our client really likes to complete her look,” says Kaplan.

Having the support of Moda Operandi—a globally recognized online retailer known specifically for their level of top tier, luxury product and services—is perhaps the biggest boon for new designers. Moda not only has the opportunity to showcase these niche labels on a global scale, but more importantly gives them the Moda seal of approval. It is a symbiotic relationship in which both retailer and emerging designer benefit.