10 Direct-to-Consumer Brands We Love
When it comes to shopping, direct-to-consumer has become something of a buzzword. (In fact, we launched our own in-house women’s clothing brand, G. Label, in fall 2016.) This progressive business model offers brands plenty of advantages: By cutting out the middleman, they’re able to develop personal relationships with their shoppers while charging approachable prices for a higher-quality product—and increased margins certainly don’t hurt. Better yet, the direct-to-consumer model often coincides with greater social responsibility and generosity; several of the brands below are involved with charitable partnerships too. Here, a few new names to know.
Pronounced orate—AU is the abbreviation for gold on the periodic table—this fine jewelry brand designs with a good cause in mind: For each piece of jewelry sold, a book goes to a child in need (in partnership with Mastery Charter, a network of charter schools in Philadelphia servicing at least 17 schools and 10,000 students). The jewelry is ethically sourced, made in New York, and designs are offered in 14k, 18k, and vermeil—without the markup. Pieces range from classic to modern, from x-shaped earrings in yellow-gold to sculptural chokers.
Bikyni founder Jude Al-Khalil, former COO of Reformation, launched her own line in 2015 in an effort to pave the way for much-needed innovation in the swimwear industry. Made in Los Angeles of high-end-quality Italian fabrics, these minimalist-luxe bikinis and maillots take the guesswork out of finding a swimsuit that fits, feels, and looks incredible. Bonus: no unflattering fitting room lighting or mirrors.
Rich and Vicki Fulop came up with the idea for Brooklinen after trying to purchase a set of sheets after a great night’s sleep at a high-end hotel, only to find the price tag exceeded $800. They launched the business with the goal of turning the once-archaic bedding distribution system (read: markups of 10x for customers) on its head—and passing their savings onto the customer. With a successful Kickstarter campaign under their belt, they’ve made a name for themselves for their long-staple Egyptian cotton sheets and comforters in a neutral palette of grey, navy, and white.
Get to know Dôen: This bohemian-forward line, started by a collective of eight LA women, takes its cues from easy, ultra-feminine vintage pieces from the 1970s and a laid-back West Coast lifestyle. This translates to floor-length, silk jacquard-printed dresses, cotton blouses with billowy sleeves, non-stretch American-made denim, and a silk coverall (for good measure). For the little ones, they even make cotton voile dresses and ribbed sweaters in a line called Yearling by Dôen. In the interest of fair labor standards, transparency, and sustainability, they opt for domestic production (all the designing and ideating happens here in LA); but to source the best quality knits, their approach coincides with a larger mission promote women’s equality worldwide. They handpick mostly female-owned manufacturers in India and Peru to create their intricate hand-woven, embroidered, and knit pieces; meanwhile, they’ve teamed up with Room To Read to help promote literacy among primary school children and to encourage girls to complete secondary school across Africa and Asia.
Everlane’s “radical transparency” philosophy is their signature, making them one of the most straightforward and educational direct-to-consumer brands out there. Known for their timeless separates and wardrobe building blocks (their crewneck cashmere, striped t-shirts, crisp, poplin shirtdresses, and leather penny loafers are particularly good), the brand is known for breaking down their pricing in terms of factory costs and markups so you know exactly what you’re saving.
The lingerie brand bills itself as “work to workout”, meaning you could wear these bras from work to after-work drinks and swing by a yoga class in between. The team puts their own spin on modern-day intimates—they offer four styles of bras from a bralette to a no-wire—by adding design details like mesh, lace lining, racing stripes, and front-adjusting straps. Recently, they opened their own factory in southern China, which is staffed mostly by women and complies with fair workplace regulations including compensation, benefits, and environmental consciousness for its employees.
Launched by Andy Krantz and Indré Rockefeller (a Vogue alum) circa 2016, Paravel’s utilitarian-chic travel gear is truly function-oriented, emphasizing quality above all else—at approachable prices. Made of a resilient yet incredibly lightweight cotton-canvas (the same kind traditionally used to make sails) sourced from Italy and made specially for Paravel, they feature everything from carry-ons to dopp kits in their signature canvas. (The collapsible suitcase is a favorite.) The best part? All the pieces are water-resistant and easy to clean.
Rockets of Awesome makes shopping for littles as accessible as, say, hailing a ride with Lyft or ordering your groceries on Instacart. By using algorithms based on what your kids do and don’t like, they’ll send you 12 mix-and-match pieces, four times per year. (You can always let them know if there are pieces your kids don’t like along the way, and you’re only charged for what you keep.) It’s a super easy way to provide everyday wear for kids from ages 2 to 14—especially since each piece clocks in at under $40. Sign-ups are free and there are no subscription fees.
Tamara Mellon co-founded Jimmy Choo in 1996 and, two decades later, set out to disrupt the traditional model of designer shoes by relaunching her eponymous line. The array of heels, boots, sandals, and flats skews from classics to experimental—the latter, released in limited-quantity Lab Editions that include more fashion-forward thigh-high boots and velvet knee-high lace-up pumps. Drawing from her deep industry ties, she sources her no-markup line from the same family-run luxury shoemakers she’s worked with for decades.
In 2016, beloved New York designer Thakoon Panichgul shifted gears to a show-now, buy-now, wear-now mentality after more than ten years in the business. Step into his NYC flagship on Wooster Street for limited-time, limited-quantity releases every two weeks (they’re also available online). Presenting in-season collections at NYFW—say, fall/winter while the rest of the pack is looking at next summer—makes it all the more tempting to swoop in and shop straight off the runway.