In today’s Fashion Briefing, fashion brands take advantage of emerging digital technologies by innovating around QR codes, embracing TikTok and fine-tuning their AI-driven personalization.
With their new fashion brand, Barneys veteran Marina Larroudé and her financier husband, Ricardo Larroudé, have solidified their ideas of the industry’s next normal. In short, it’s fashion-tech — and that’s fashion with a capital “f.”
On December 1, the founders revealed Larroudé through a direct-to-consumer website featuring its first 34 products — 26 of which are shoes, including 20 with heels. Each style is equipped with a QR code that cues up a patented technology. It enables elements of referral, affiliate and influencer marketing programs, as well as the “Shazam of fashion” concept that’s been attempted by Kim Kardashian to Amazon. (Take a picture of a style, and they’ll find an exact or similar style on an e-commerce site using AI.)
With fashion brands on a digital technology tear since the start of the pandemic, QR codes have become a go-to tool for engaging customers and facilitating contactless stores. The familiarity with QR technology spurred the idea, but for the brand, it’s not a pandemic-inspired concept.
“I didn’t build the brand for the pandemic,” said Marina Larroudé, who spent nearly three years as Barneys’ fashion director, until 2019, managing its private-label collections including shoes. “Better days are to come. We’re putting down the foundation now, but we’re building this for longevity. There’s a big need in the market for thoughtful products.”
Each shoe style, for example, features a matching QR code on its soles and its box. “So when you’re out, and someone asks, ‘Where did you get those?’ they can scan the code directly, or you can share it if you’ve saved it on your phone,” she said. The original buyer gets $10 in brand credit when someone buys the style using their link and $5 when registering their shoes. The person being referred gets $15 off their purchase. Available styles are priced $150-$450.
She noted that the QR code link can also be shared in texts and on social channels, including in Instagram swipe-ups. “It cuts the middleman between myself and these influencers,” said Ricardo Larroudé, whose resume includes an investment role Apollo Global Management. He’ll be heading up the business side as CEO, while Marina handles creative. In the future, the brand credit will evolve to a direct payment.
As he sees it, there’s big potential in the codes, specifically for sales people outside of the store setting. A licensed person could set up a trunk show with shoe samples and place orders using the code as they’re placed. “The pandemic changed the whole job market,” he said. “People have been coming up with new ways to sell things, and there’s more independence.”
And the peer-to-peer referral model benefits the brand as much as the shoppers, he said: “For the brand, it’s definitely cheaper than paying 20% of my revenues to Google or Facebook, and to the marketers behind the agencies to acquire [customers].”
But Marina Larroudé said the company will be doing “a little bit of advertising” soon, via Facebook and Instagram. To date, to promote the brand, it’s relied on her social following, which is 70,000 on Instagram. She teased the brand starting in mid-November, including with video clips of industry friends like designer Misha Nonoo wishing her luck on the new project.
Thus far, the launch has gone “better than expected,” Ricardo Larroudé said, though he didn’t share sales numbers.
Larroudé was first concepted in June, and the founders were reviewing style samples by August. “You’ve got two people with [a cumulative] 40 years of experience in this space, in lockdown. So, we moved fast,” said Marina Larroudé, adding that both were working on the brand full-time.
She said an inspiration was Benetton, the Italian brand known for its forward, inclusive ads and vocal support of social causes. It closed its U.S. stores in 2017. In the same vein, Larroudé’s Instagram bio features the tagline “We. Us. You. All.” Its website details its factory conditions and sustainability efforts.
Their choice factory, which is in Brazil and specializes in export products, was available due to other brands canceling orders. She said she chose the shoes’ details before they determined prices, to prevent being forced to cut corners.
So far, Larroudé has 12 employees, including an accessories designer and a head of strategy and business development.
In the near future, Larroudé plans to offer same-day delivery in New York, plus — based on demand — it will launch international shipping and link with retail partners in international markets. It will release new products every 8-12 weeks, with two larger product updates each year. A goal is to create a few iconic styles by regularly adding fresh updates to existing silhouettes, much like Nike does with Air Force 1s, said Ricardo Larroudé. The next categories to roll out will likely be beauty and ready-to-wear.
He said, by early next year, Larroudé plans to offer up the QR technology via a license to other brands, and the company has already begun making shoes for other brands. “I built the road, so I might as well get other cars on it,” he said.
He then hinted at big, conglomerate-level goals: After calling Tapestry and Capri [Holdings] “a Frankenstein of brands,” he commended Europe’s LVMH and Kering for more seamlessly pulling off a common infrastructure. Moving forward, he said, he hopes Larroudé will operate like a record label, with himself as executive producer and Marina as the fashion producer.
“It’s about building the whole business around the talent to thrive,” he said. “That’s where Larroudé is going.”