With a new category and channel launched just in time for the holiday shopping season, the label is further developing its direct sales strategy.

NEW YORK, United States — Elizabeth and James is introducing a new category — and a new way to shop its wares — just in time for the holiday season.

On Friday, November 24, Elizabethandjames.us will offer e-commerce for the first time in the contemporary brand’s history. (It was founded by designers Ashley and Mary-Kate Olsen in 2007.) The newly minted webshop will launch with two categories: select products from its suite of Nirvana fragrances (including full-size and rollerball perfumes, gift sets and a best-selling dry shampoo) along with watches, which are new to the label.

The 10-piece “200 Series” timepiece collection — each of which retail for $200, a pricing sweet spot for the brand — features a domed-mirror metallic face available in five colourways and set on a black or white rubber strap. Inspired by the digital watches first popularised in the 1970s and ’80s, the face features a red LED display that looks like a sleek, modernised piece of jewellery, with just a hint of retro throwback. “We had a very specific idea from a design perspective; we knew exactly what we wanted,” Ashley Olsen said. “There’s something nostalgic about it.”

The watches, each presented in a reusable cling-wrap container reminiscent of CD packaging, will also be available to purchase at the label’s flagship store at The Grove in Los Angeles. Eight out of 10 styles will also be available via Shopbop.com starting in December, the only retail partner to carry it at launch.

The precise execution, two years in the making, is indicative of the designers’ thoughtful approach to introducing new elements to the Elizabeth and James world. While many contemporary labels strike up a licensing agreement with a watch manufacturer (like Fossil) to swiftly enter the category, the designers decided instead to keep the process in-house.

The strategy is in line with the choice they made in 2015 to let the label’s apparel license with the Jaya Apparel Group expire. Direct management of the brand allows for more control. Indeed, the brand’s increasingly honed aesthetic may account, at least in part, for its current financial successes. The private company does not disclose revenue figures, however, it saw double-digit growth overall in its most recent fiscal year and expects the same for 2018.

As for e-commerce, that too, has been carried out with notable prudence. By launching with fragrance and watches — two giftable products that are not sized — the brand can cull consumer insights that will help inform its broader roll out in 2018, when all categories will be made available to shop. (Currently, the brand is stocked at 600 doors worldwide across apparel, handbags, jewellery and eyewear. Fragrance distribution is wider, available at more than 1,000 doors in the US — mostly through Nordstrom and Sephora — and 120 internationally, with further expansion abroad planned for next year.)

“This is a way for us to start dealing directly with the customer,” Mary-Kate Olsen said. “To really understand who she is without overextending ourselves.”


By Lauren Sherman