Jeff Rudes knows what his L’Agence shopper wants and feels the brand’s first collaboration featuring Marylin Monroe is the right note.
“Our customer is sophisticated and this speaks to her,” Rudes, cofounder and chief executive officer, said of a new limited collection of pieces featuring photos of Monroe by Bert Stern, a shoot that became famous as the actor’s last before her death. “A lot of our customers are 35 and up, she goes up to 70 years old, and she’s probably already familiar with Bert Sterns.”
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But deciding on any collaboration, as it’s the very first for L’Agence, which Rudes cofounded in 2008 a few years after founding J Brand, was tricky.
“I was one of the first to do fashion collaborations at J Brand with Christopher Kane and Proenza Schouler, but L’Agence isn’t a jean brand, we’re a fashion brand, we’re lifestyle, so we’re limited in who we can collaborate with.”
In the end, Rudes approached the Bert Stern Trust and was given the ability to choose among any of his “Last Sitting” photos of Monroe. The most sought after of which are the photos Monroe struck an orange “x,” the photos she didn’t like, and that color and the “x” are part of the 12-piece limited L’Agence collection, including a white leather jacket, a few shirts, denim pieces and neck scarves.
Already, Rudes is having talks about future collaborations with L’Agence, saying these types of moves for brands are not about revenue, but the “cool factor.” He noted that he still gets e-mails, mainly from friends of his daughter, asking if styles from the J Brand x Christopher Kane collaboration several years ago are still to be had.
“A collaboration has to bring that cool factor,” Rudes said. “If the product is great, limited, customers love it.”
Beyond the 11-year-old L’Agence releasing its first collaboration, the brand is also expanding its retail footprint. Rudes said he’s looking at two, possibly three, new store openings in 2020 and likely even more after that. It only has two stores now, one in Los Angeles and another in New York City, and the first new store will open in January in New York’s SoHo neighborhood. Part of the reason for the expansion in owned retail is that L’Agence is doing well. Rudes said sales, mostly wholesale, are 70 percent above plan. Another is that the brand’s own stores are frequently “packed,” according to Rudes.
“I don’t like the word ‘hot’ because then there’s cold, and she’s buying at Saks, Nordstrom, we’re well represented, but she loves coming to us…no one can represent L’Agence like us,” Rudes said. “We’re bullish on retail…we’re on a path to open stores in a number of fashion cities.”
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