For Fashion and Beauty Brands, Diversity Is More than Skin Deep


Customer experience starts before your customers reach out to you—if they feel uncomfortable or excluded by your product range, advertising, or any other factor, you’ve already lost the chance to build a relationship. New fashion and beauty brands are overtaking legacy offerings by taking advantage of underserved markets, building on those lost relationships and offering a better experience.

Beauty brands specifically are reaching a wider audience by diversifying their color palettes and offering hair and skincare products that suit a greater variety of textures and shades. For new companies, this approach is capturing the attention of customers who have felt left out, and for more established ones, it’s allowing them to grow audiences in new demographics using their existing brand caché.Legacy beauty has historically focused on creating palettes for light skin while creating only a few or no options for other skin types. New beauty has taken the opposite approach, appealing to those customers who have felt left out for decades. Rihanna’s uber-popular Fenty Beauty has made a name for itself by offering a more diverse product range. That includes 40 shades of foundation, which puts most of beauty’s biggest names to shame.

Sephora (a fellow LVMH brand) called Fenty “the most inclusive beauty brand in the world,” and it was dubbed “Invention of the Year” by TIME.

Fenty’s approach has already more than paid off. Fenty Beauty’s customers are some of the biggest spenders on beauty products in general, spending an average of $471 a year on makeup according to a report by Slice Intelligence.

A similar story has been unfolding in the fashion space, but not around the color of customers’ skin. Instead, it’s been around body-type. Legacy fashion brands have historically only offered a narrow range of sizes up to around size 12, limiting their appeal to only a handful of body types. But today, two-thirds of American women are above size 14. This means that these legacy brands are holding themselves back from a market worth $20 billion (and growing).

New brands like Universal Standard offer a range of sizes, from 00 – 32, making sure no one is left out and winning customers and praise in the process. Good American Denim sells their extensive size range in a single place, not relegating them to a separate plus-size section. These brands lead with positivity and acceptance, rather than the traditional snobbery and exclusiveness some luxury fashion brands have grown a reputation for.

However, some traditional apparel brands are picking up on the trend as well. Target has seen great success after launching an extended size range in 2015, and Nike credits its expanded size range as one the main factors boosting their bottom line. Expanding your size range can be expensive, but lucrative luxury brands like Gucci have no excuse for not keeping up.

The lesson for established brands is clear: delivering a relevant experience to an ignored customer base can yield dividends.

How DTC Strategies Are Shaking Up Fashion

As direct-to-consumer business models become more popular, different industries are finding their own ways to make these kinds of experiences work for them. This has been especially true for the fashion industry. By cutting out markups, leveraging digital technologies, and promoting radical transparency, dozens of new fashion brands are succeeding with DTC. We’ve taken a look at the unique ways specific fashion verticals are taking their products straight to customers, and how they’re differentiating themselves from the legacy brands that came before them.

Whitepaper: The DTC Approach – 4 Aspects to Master

Denim: Simplified Selection and a Digital Storefront

Some products are timeless, but are the brands that sell them timeless enough to survive in the modern retailing world?

The traditional retail model means denim companies like 7 For All Mankind source their designs and fabrics from numerous designers and mills. They stock products their designers and buyers believe customers will like, but aren’t close enough to customers to bet on a handful of choice designs. Instead, like most retailers, they take a shotgun approach. Dozens of slightly different fabrics, cuts, and details make shopping for new jeans harrowing and downright consumer unfriendly. National retail outlets require huge warehouses and supply chains to keep locations stocked with all the varied styles, driving up costs for the end-buyer.

Younger luxury brand DSTLD sells premium denim and elevated basics direct to the consumer and is primarily online (with limited pop-up stores that let customers experience the brand in person). By selling direct, DSTLD is able to focus on quality rather than quantity. Their collection is easy to browse with a color palette of just black, white, grey, and blue. A reasonable price tag is a fair trade for a lesser-known brand name and limited retail stores—plus they use the same factories as many designer labels. DSTLD even allows true fans to invest in the company, ensuring that the brand will remain true to their customers as they grow—because they have direct financial control.

Focusing on a few good items done right at a fair price point is key to tapping into modern shopping trends, and encourages brand loyalty and repeat business by making clothes that become an essential part of customers’ wardrobes. Huge selections and hundreds of retail outlets are no longer likely to breed success.

Designer Fashion: A Closet in the Cloud

While the previous example focused on delivering a product, the new normal for retail also means fundamental changes in behavior. One of the biggest shifts: changing attitudes about ownership. Airbnb, Lyft, and WeWork all meet a desire to pay less in exchange for giving up sole possession. Why own a car when it’s so convenient to ride in someone else’s? Why stay in a hotel when you can stay in someone’s house for less? Rent the Runway provides a similar solution for your wardrobe. Why buy a new dress for every one of your friends’ weddings when you can rent one for a tenth of the cost?

With Rent the Runway, customers can get the same high-quality designer clothing, but without having to own it forever. If you don’t want to show up to every wedding of the season in the same thing, renting just makes more sense, and allows customers more choice and flexibility—they can get a much more expensive piece without worrying about the price tag.

RTR’s direct-to-consumer model adds value that a department store like Macy’s just can’t without majorly restructuring some of their current practices. Without the costly overhead of hundreds of national storefronts, RTR can deliver and scale a new kind of in-store experience without orienting their entire business around it.

Pre-Loved Fashion: Sustainable Style

Millennial consumers don’t feel the stigma of pre-owned items like previous generations. They’re more likely to embraced pre-owned fashion due to its sustainability (and lower cost), leading to a robust market for secondhand goods. New sites like Grailed, theRealReal, and TrueFacet are filling the gaps left between the small, independent, highly-curated boutiques offering clothes and furniture in most major cities. However, Material World offers a service that goes a step further than any of these.

Material World will pay customers for their pre-owned designer clothing up front—making it easy to trade in your lightly-worn items for hard cash. Yet this is just one piece of a bigger system. The Material Box is a subscription service that ships an outfit handpicked by a stylist every month straight to your door. You’re not just getting a sustainable, designer outfit for a fraction of the price, you’re getting unique and totally personalized styling services. The stylist who works with them knows the entire history of their purchases and interactions, meaning they can provide deep and contextual service. That’s a benefit you won’t find at even the most upscale boutique. The box can then be used to send back their own clothing, replenishing their old pre-owned clothes with new ones. Material World supports an ethical system that diminishes waste and elevates the benefits of pre-owned clothing, creating an experience that’s even more appealing and streamlined than buying a designer outfit for yourself.

As the DTC model becomes more popular, the variety and creativity of new DTC brands will only increase. The principles for CX success are clear, no matter which industry you’re in:

  • Adapt to changing customer expectations
  • Always push to innovate with new technology
  • Look beyond the old ways of doing things to find cheaper, faster alternatives

If you can do that, you’re sure to delight your customers and improve their experience. Learn some more aspects of the DTC approach that can help you deliver better service in our whitepaper.

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