LONDON — In an online, and offline, world of proliferating product, too many choices, and opinions flying everywhere — about styles, trends and how to live sustainably — two former colleagues from British Vogue are hoping to dial down the noise and take some of the stress out of shopping for fashion, luxury and interiors.
Their online shop and magazine, Collagerie, offers products across different categories, at variety of price points, and their aim is to create a “highly curated,” one-stop shop, helping customers navigate a market that’s overflowing with merch.
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Products on offer range from a cotton polka-dot bath mat from Next costing 18 pounds to a pair of Jessica McCormack diamond and chalcedony drop earrings priced at 23,000 pounds.
There is fashion from Ralph Lauren, Tory Burch, Alexander McQueen, Isabel Marant, Giambattista Valli and Zara; vintage items from 1st Dibs; accessories from Mango, and interiors, including furniture, from H&M Home, Paul Smith, Divertimenti and Hermès.
On Friday, Collagerie will reveal a collaboration with The Conran Shop, part of its ongoing strategy to partner with brands and see them from a fresh perspective.
Collagerie’s founders, Lucinda Chambers and Serena Hood, are authentic influencers and merchandisers, with decades of experience forged at magazines and behind-the-scenes at fashion brands.
They met at British Vogue where Chambers was the longtime fashion director under editor Alexandra Shulman, and Hood was executive fashion and market director. Chambers was also a longtime creative collaborator at Marni, and has consulted for brands including Prada and Jil Sander, while Hood has worked at Giorgio Armani, Marc Jacobs and American Vogue.
At Collagerie, they’ve created what Condé Nast tried, and failed, to do at Style.com: build a commercial, online sales platform with editorial authority and a stylist’s eye.
Unlike Condé, Chambers and Hood are free from editorial constraints; advertiser demands, and the pressure to compete with the likes of Farfetch, Net-a-porter or Matchesfashion.com. They’re running a start-up backed by private investors and they’re vetting and selecting products based on their own needs, experience and taste.
Chambers said the idea for the site came from the intuitive way in which she and Hood — and a lot of other people — shop.
“You don’t just go out and shop for dresses, you don’t go shopping for black shoes. You want to be inspired, and you don’t necessarily want to be buying a brand top-to-toe. We wanted a mix, and to offer a sense of discovery. And, at the end of the day, this is about beautiful products at any price point,” Chambers said.
Hood believes they are not only tapping into demand from consumers, but from the brands as well. Although brands are increasingly reliant on direct-to-consumer sales, that model has its limitations. Also, consumers rarely, if ever, rely on a single brand for their wardrobe, accessories, beauty and interiors.
“Brands want to be connecting with consumers in different ways, so for us, it’s about how to create these different moments to celebrate them,” Hood said.
“A huge part of our business are these brand partnerships where we’re doing digital storytelling, product collaborations and offline events,” she said, adding that another of Collagerie’s strengths is being able to take products “out of context” and put them in a space where they can complement each other.
The cofounders also believe that offering a broad range of product categories — and price points — puts them ahead of some e-commerce competitors, who may have started in fashion and who are now adding categories such as beauty and home interiors.
Collagerie launched in November 2019, and has been growing due to its “highly scalable, innovative tech infrastructure,” said Hood, adding the team can onboard products and forge brand partners rapidly, keeping the site fresh.
So far Collagerie has been fueled by angel investors, and will be launching a seed funding round soon. The money raised will be plowed into marketing, tech and building up the customer base.
Chambers and Hood said their biggest challenge so far has been to build the right team, and to sell their vision to investors, brands and the end-consumer.
The site has 11 full-time staff from various walks of professional life, including editorial, digital retail and tech.
Collagerie also has a strong editorial angle, with a steady flow of emails touting Chambers’, Hood’s and their guest curators’ wish lists, and an invitation to shop the edits.
There are regular columns such as “On My Shelf” where the cofounders ask creative types to talk about how they “dress” their homes, or what they’re buying for a certain occasion.
Another column is called “Conversations,” where people talk about what they’re reading, cooking or watching. There are travel tips, too, from designers and other friends of the brand.
Collagerie generates revenue through sales on the site and brand partnerships such as in-store, retail events with partners. A recent one was with Tory Burch, where Chambers and Hood did an edit of merchandise, and brought Collagerie to life with a physical event.
There are three revenue streams: affiliate sales generated when the customer clicks on a brand or product and goes through to another retailer’s site; marketplace, when the customer clicks on the brand or product and the sale goes through to Collagerie’s site, and partnerships, which it has with brands including Tory Burch, Ralph Lauren and Conran.
The new Conran collection, which was designed by Collagerie and produced by Conran’s team, features 20 products across eight Pantone hues ranging from Lily Pad to Fiery Red. Products include hand-dipped vases; platters and bowls; fringed cushion covers; linen napkins, and a tote.
Collagerie showcases more than 4,000 brands, and Hood said the marketplace in particular has been a key data generator. There are about 60 brands on the marketplace, which launched in February, and Hood said they’re able to onboard those brands in about three days.
Trend-wise, green has emerged as a color du jour — it is also Chambers’ current obsession — while event wear and holiday dressing are popular, too. Hood said that with lockdown having eased and travel opening up, there has been an uplift in “everything from kaftans to swimwear to sun hats.”
Tablescaping is also another big trend as people are entertaining family and friends at home once again, indoors and outdoors, Chambers said.
Although it’s still early days, Hood said Collagerie’s ability to scale will help it to grow internationally.
“We can go to America, the Middle East, Australia. We’ve always seen this site as being able to scale globally,” Hood said. “We already have visitors from over 80 countries, and there is so much we can see right now about our customer and how they shop. There’s clearly an appetite outside the U.K.”
Chambers believes the future will also be about leveraging Collagerie’s point of difference. She believes the site is off to a solid start because of the trust, and the taste level, it offers.
“We see everything that’s eventually pushed onto the site. And it’s very highly curated. Having the website also means that we can see something in the morning, and post it by the afternoon. We’ve also got guest curators in fashion and interiors, so nothing that’s really good ever gets past us,” she said.
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