April 20, 2023

Magic is in affordable luxury.

I used to believe luxury brands are built with high quality products + offered in low quantity + sold at high prices. Then I launched a few brands and learned otherwise.

I started experimenting with creating physical products in 2020. Right when covid began. I started brands like Compliment, Renklar, Reserved and Marviaca to learn the craft of making by doing (you can read about my learnings from each on my Read.CV). I hired a small team of designers for each, defined a simple 3-step creative process to keep all members aligned, across projects and started the work.

Explore. Experiment. Execute. Each of these steps were time-boxed for to apply good creative constraints. In order to complete a step, members had to post the outcome of their work, by sharing a couple of options, and get the team to vote. Less decisions from me. More growth for my team. Always provide options. Always trust the collective mind over a single leader.

Anyway, it took us roughly about a year to get the first products in place. First round, we created everything from scratch. For clothing, we hired tailors and pattern artists to experiment with different fabrics and shapes to find our signature. For self-care products, we tested small local shops specialised in organic products to try different product types. For furniture, we collaborated with a small studio to prototype and manufacture our designs in low quantities. And for the space design, well, the biggest nightmare of all, we hired a range of different teams to bring our designs to life for the store and studio.

It was nerve racking. Probably because I started many projects at once. But I thought it was necessary to experiment with a lot at once and apply the learnings across projects in real time. And I figured now that I'm dedicating a year or two to go through this growth pain, I rather go all in and learn as much as I can.

Once the products were close to be done, we began the marketing work. From art direction to photoshoots, from ads to hiring influencers. We did it all. And we learned the art of it.

For pricing, we went ambitious. In my mind, better to start high, then lower the prices if needed because the other way around is more challenging. Also, I had a strong belief that starting with a high price, would position us as a high-end brand from the start. And I believed customers that can afford higher prices, are usually easier to deal with in terms of sale and support.

Well, we got most of those right. But we underestimated a little detail. It takes years to build a luxury brand. We had all kinds of influencers wearing our clothes. From celebrities to top instagrammers. Most even did it for free because they liked our designs. We had the right products. The branding was right. Art direction was on point. We stood out. But our name didn't travel fast enough. Word of mouth was missing. And that reflected in our sales numbers. We only sold when we boosted our posts on social media or launched a creative campaign.

Then I realised a simple truth.

People only recommend when they find a great product, priced lower than their expectation. So they run around, and tell everyone, as if it’s a secret. It may sound obvious but it wasn't. At least for me. So we changed the formula a little bit.

Accessible quality + sustainable quantity + affordable pricing. Magic happened once we made that change.

Why am I sharing this now? 
Because we are in recession. 
Recession rewards adaptive businesses.

As designers, I believe it's a great time for us to humble ourselves. To lower our prices and package our services. We can go after the bigger shops. Agencies. By taking less and offer more. They won't last.

Optimise your processes, shorten your timelines, package your skills, and price it at an affordable rate.

I'm doing the same with my team at OP®. Historically we've been a high-end agency. Most couldn't afford us. But we are working to change that. With all the talents available now for hire, and clients looking for speedy turnarounds, we would be fool not to try.

Also, my new lifestyle brand, BR, will be covering all your essentials with great quality products from clothing to self-care products and more, at an affordable pricing.