Last week, two young women named Claire Mazur and Erica Cerulo launched their new business. Of a Kind produces limited edition objects and fashion, for both men and women, and sells exclusively through their own site. At the same time, they produce significant editorial content about the designers they work with. It's a new way to address both fashion—by treating it like art—and also the fashion magazine. Both quit their jobs earlier this year to go out on their own. Here's a look at their business model, which borrows from old-fashioned bricks and mortar order fulfillment to questions of how to make a customer into a fan, in a condensed interview with the two founders.
The big idea.
The context is that we promote emerging fashion designers to make limited edition pieces—and release them with editorial posts about the designers. The point there is to give people a real connection with these designers. Most magazines give 150 words—where they went to school, etc. This is to give you a greater sense of who they are. So it's not just about consumption.
Making limited edition fashion.
Editions are between 10 and 50, mostly hovering around twenty. If we were going to do something expensive and unique, it'd be more like five. One thing we've learned from the enterpeneurs we've talked to is being ready to adapt—to turn on a dime and turn around the way we order things, the way we pay for things.
The price point.
$100 to $500. Some are under a hundred, around $80 or so. We want people like us to be able to buy it. The other idea is that you're finding out about someone before it gets big. The crowd we hang out with loves that feeling about finding out about something before they get big. We want people to have that experience.
The new business question: investment v. lean startup.
We've had some informational meetings with some VCs, and they've done some introductions. Basically we decided pretty early on that it would make more sense to us to wait post-launch, and wait till we had press and proof of concept. It's not an unproven business model but it is in a way a new thing. We're doing blogging and doing retail. It's going to take a little putting ourselves out there and proving ourselves.
My apartment is boxes and packaging right now. There are things that are daunting, like reading books about customer service. That is a huge part of this. Like what is our customer service philosophy? I think the thing that keeps coming back to us, because we're trying to integrate editorial and retail, design is more challenging than we thought it would be. There are no established best practices. Almost all retail sites have blogs in a corner, in a blog ghetto. We really wanted to make sure you couldn't go through the editorial without the retail and vice versa. In our world, there doesn't need to be a church and state division. We're commissioning products we love.
We talk about people all the time, the people who are our customers: we say, so and so would buy this, so and so would wear this. We quiz people on pricing and things and show them a sample and say how much would you pay for this. I spent time in my kitchen creating a set of characters that I thought were my customers, and writing a narrative of who this person was. I thought it was important to incorporate men right out of the gate. Our male customer is named Ben and he reads Monocle and has tried on a Thom Browne suit but would never wear one and he knows about food and has had his hair cut at Freeman's, even if he wouldn't go regularly.
What wasn't hard about starting a business?
I always thought the most challenging part was meeting people and getting them to help us. But it was actually the easiest. Even designers. We were cold-emailing them with nothing but an idea. A lot of people didn't respond but a lot of people did—and they happened to be the ones with bigger names, who were on the paths to success.
Was it worth it so far?We look around every day and we're like, can you believe this is our job now? I think our friends are all really excited and I think a bunch want to do stuff like this too. I had a friend visit from D.C. who was quizzing me: how did you guys incorporate? How are you getting funding? She wants to work in a different realm—but the lessons are all basically the same.