It seems like every apparel startup that launches claims they’re “disruptive” and it’s Warby Parker’s fault. Since their launch in 2010, there’s been a swell in direct-to-consumer, online retailers who characterize themselves as a disruptive. I’d hardly call vertical apparel innovative.
Warby Parker works because it is in a highly specialized market. You’ve probably heard the story. Luxxotica basically had a monopoly in glasses because they own Oakley and Ray Bans and manufacture frames for big name designers. Enter Warby Parker, who design, manufacture and sell glasses at fraction of the cost. They might have disrupted the system. I mean, would you rather pay $300 for Prada frames or $95 for Warby Parker frames that look very similar?
Now there are online fashion retailers that, in more words, claim they are the Warby Parker of the apparel market. I hate to break it to them, but they aren’t. Name a company that was doing direct-to-consumer designer eyewear before 2010? I can’t. Name a company that was doing direct-to-consumer designer retail before 2010? J.Crew, Gap, American Apparel, Lululemon, the list goes on. If a company’s only claim to fame is they’re disrupting retail, they aren’t going to last because it’s not true. They’re not changing the game. They’re just joining it.
The key is to find your niche. Localized clothing? Stock Mfg is a vertically integrated online clothing manufacturer, but they’re doing it all in the city of Chicago. J.Crew or Banana Republic quality tees for less? Everlane is selling t-shirts for $15. But if your marketing approach is “we are the Warby Parker of our industry because we’re vertically integrated,” I would think again.