Trends: New fashion brands turn to vertically integrated ecommerce

Why are the best deals on new fashion brands found online instead of in stores? The hottest new labels are using vertically integrated e-commerce to make a name for themselves with style at prices appealing to fashion fans.

As a fashion product goes from being a twinkle in a designer’s eye to a part of your wardrobe, it passes through a multitude of middlemen:  manufacturers, distributors, or retail stores. It is no secret that the internet can offer better deals, and savvy consumers are starting to shift their spending habits online.

In response, new companies are shaking up the established retail models and basing their businesses completely online. Using high-quality site design, social media viral marketing, advertizing on niche sites, and email promotions, these companies can compete against big brand names with decades of experience in retail business.

EYEWEAR: Warby Parker
Warby Parker is an eyewear company founded by four quirky and energetic entrepreneurs who took a look at the way glasses were being sold, and saw an opportunity to streamline the system.

vertically integrated company.
Warby Parker is a vertically integrated company.

At first glance, feels more like a Tumblr page than a e-commerce site, with stylish glasses adorning models in a slideshow. And Warber Parker is more than just a pretty face. For each pair of glasses they sell, they send a pair to someone in need. The site is easily navigable and perfectly arranged to showcase their wares. Clicking on a product, a customer sees close ups, photos of the glasses in action on models, and read a witty product description. Recognizing that websites are the new storefront, Warby Parker has invested into producing sales pages that look like an art gallery.High-end glasses are so costly not just because of their quality, but also because the brands outsource the design and production to huge companies which pay a fee for the logo and brand name rights. The big companies ship their branded glasses to optical stores, who then rack up the prices to make their profit. By handling the design and sales, Warby Parker is able to offer glasses produced in the same fashion as big name brands at a fraction of the price by using their website as a showroom.

CLOTHING: Everlane
Visit and the first thing you see is the hard facts: “the designer shirt you buy sells for 8 times what it costs to make”. Everlane is founded on the principle that people are buying brand names that they trust not for the name, but for their quality. And that is exactly how they market their products.  Their shirts are not plastered with logos, and their bags are not a walking advertisement for themselves.

Everlane Tee

Simple design, quality product, low price at

Everlane is a brand for the social media age: when shoppers find good value, they share it with their friends. With slick social media buttons, a Tumblr page that includes user photos, a witty Twitter account, and a Facebook page to showcase their newest addition to their members Everlane encourages people to share their brand, offering rewards such as free shipping and even access to a secret store when your friends sign up as members.

To see the wares, customers must sign up through email or Facebook, so Everlane feels like a secret club that rewards members with great deals.

WATCHES: Cadence Watch Company
Why can’t watch companies offer their watches on their own websites at a good value? They are handcuffed by the big name retail stores that sell their watches. If most watch companies tried to sell their watches at a reasonable price on their own websites, they would undercut the stores that sell their products, which would result in retail stores cutting contracts. As long as watch companies sell through retailers, consumers are going to be stuck footing the bill. With online business models, consumers pay for quality, not for a brand name.

wrist watch model
Modeling a Cadence Watch. Photo by jamie Giambrone.

Like Warby Parker and Everlane, the Cadence Watch Company designs, markets and sells their products completely online at, which results in high quality watches at a fraction of the price of the big names. Consider the standard retail model. We have all seen the frenzy of an end of season sale, where big businesses frantically try to offload their excess products to consumers before it is too late. Cadence employs a different philosophy, making only enough watches to meet demand.


An example of this is the Radian watch, a unique maths-themed watch which replaces the standard hour dials with pi radians counting counter-clockwise. Cadence offered their initial production of the piece through a promotion on the tech-savvy social media site Redditors could get the watch at 70% off the retail price by signing up their email list. This allow Cadence to accurately judge interest, and pass on huge savings to their buyers by producing just enough watches to meet demand. Better value, less waste.

Unlike traditional advertising platforms, offers a unique opportunity for a multi way discourse, with Reddit users able to give their opinion on the watches that Cadence promotes. Vanya Buvac, CEO of Cadence Watch Company, is a huge fan of the way Reddit has allowed Cadence to reach such a great audience, saying that “The reddit community has been the most rewarding way to promote our watches.  Not only do we reach an exceptionally smart and engaged people, we also get comments and suggestions on how to make better watches.” The internet does not just allow for great deals, it lets consumers have a voice.

Good for the Company, Good for Consumers

As more and more sales shift online, consumers are going to be rewarded with better and better deals. The growing trend leaves the future of physical retail in danger, and is on the way to revolutionizing how people shop. Cadence, Warby Parker and Everlane are just three great examples of how cutting out the middlemen can allow customers to stop choosing between quality and value.

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