“LA Collective will be a game changer for the American fashion scene.” Reading this on Apparel News in December got us curious to learn more. Over the holiday season, Qrius sat down with Karl Singer, co-founder and CEO of LA Collective, to talk fashion, lifestyle brands, social media influencers, and how all these come together on the LA Collective platform.
How would you describe LA Collective in a line?
Karl Singer: LA Collective is a vertically-integrated brand incubator that develops popular fashion lines in partnership with celebrities and social media influencers.
You have described elsewhere that LA Collective was “born of the love for fashion”. We’d love to know the origin story.
KS: I was in private label manufacturing, product development and retailing. And I had a front row view of the gradual collapse of the middle-market retail chains. People used to consult fashion store staff or read Vogue or even the trades. But those brands had slowed down and we were seeing social media influencers, with large followings, becoming the new trendsetters and style editors.
My wife was a model and actress at the time so she saw first-hand the importance of social media in the industries of fashion. As I was looking at ways to pivot our business and use the expertise in manufacturing, she brought forward the idea to build enterprises and fashion brands behind celebrities, influencers and personalities with strong social media presence.
How exactly do you empower influencers?
KS: Social media stars usually know a lot about fashion and trends. But they are not necessarily well-equipped to overcome the many logistical and operational hurdles that go into the manufacturing and distribution of apparel. We run the manufacturing, operations and fulfilment behind the brand and bring it to market, and really help grow these brands into larger lifestyle brands.
And why LA? Your company tagline says “Made in LA. Designed in LA. Inspired by LA.”
KS: Well, Los Angeles, as a city, has the perfect blend of fashion, the arts, fitness, and street culture. Jaynee and I have always wholeheartedly embraced the diversity — the beaches of Malibu, the promenades of Beverly Hills, the streets of Silverlake. Our city is full of trendsetters who inspire us daily. We are also committed to bringing back the local apparel manufacturing community in a big way. They have played a central role in keeping LA vibrant and with their growth, the whole fashion community in LA will grow as well.
Also, operational efficiency, right? Having your headquarters, your 60,000 square foot manufacturing plant, your warehouse, and your fulfilment centre close together must be lending a lot to speed-to-market, quality control, and faster adaptability to trends.
KS: Yes. I can walk 20 yards or 50 yards to our factory floor and make sure the product we want to launch in four weeks is coming out, the quality is correct and everything is kind of a seamless transition for the launch date. Having everything close by also helps operate our lean inventory model.
Let’s circle back to influencers for a bit. How do you pick your partners?
KS: Before anything else, we first look for people who fit well with our ethos and can champion a particular category. If you see our partners — Morgan Stewart, Alexis Ren, Anna Victoria — they share our love for fashion and are ideal for the categories of activewear they have focused on.
Once we have someone we are excited about, we also see how strong their media presence is and where they can have the most impact. It’s a plus if they have a strong team to help them run targeted campaigns across various digital channels and brick-and-mortar retail.
Your first collection, TLA by Morgan Stewart, has ended up becoming an overnight success. And has captured the fancy of quite the clientele — Khloe Kardashian, Olivia Culpo, Nicky Hilton.
KS: Morgan [Stewart] had a great read on what design will work best for her followers. The rest was pretty organic. And fast. It developed quite a cult-like following. We plan to keep growing the brand and broadening the offerings. Alexis [Ren] and Anna [Victoria] have also shown great promise and their brands are fast gaining popularity as we speak.
How does the collaboration translate financially? Do you have a licencing deal with them?
KS: Licencing can be great for the celebrity involved, but it really doesn’t give them much skin in the game. We want it to be clear that we are getting behind them in a big way and taking the risk of financing it, running development and running the operations in the business. We are really invested in growing this over time, and we want the influencers we work with to have the same level of investment.
And one final question. What are your plans for 2019?
KS: Our primary goal is to expand to new categories, such as swimwear and streetwear, which have been on our roadmap from the beginning. We’ve always had the operational ability to cater to all categories in fashion, but with us, it is all about timing and teaming up with the right people who fit really well into our story and a specific category.
That’s great. Thanks for your time and all the best for the new year.