Over the next couple of weeks, we’ll be posting stories based on interviews conducted at this year’s inaugural Shoptalk Conference.
First up, Emerging Retailer caught up with Kara Gatto, CEO of upcoming high end lingerie brand Liviara, and learned more about her plan to bring new levels of care and sophistication to American shores.
The past couple of years have seen a number of lingerie companies launch with designs on reinventing the lingerie purchasing process completely. Liviara, an upcoming lingerie brand based out of St Louis, is bypassing these multitudes with its focus on gimmick-free luxury lingerie for the empowered woman, all made in the USA.
After taking a year off from her career leading nonprofits, CEO Kara Gatto decided that it was time to get back to work, so she turned to a lifelong passion. “I’ve always wanted to open a lingerie shop, and I saw a white space here in the US for high end luxury lingerie,” she explained during an interview on the first day of this year’s Shoptalk conference in Las Vegas.
As a new entrant into this growing world of luxury lingerie, Gatto believes Liviara’s biggest advantage is its manufacturing plant, opening in the Midwestern US in a matter of weeks.
Because Liviara is entering a luxury market currently dominated by companies designing and manufacturing in Western Europe, specifically the UK (e.g. Agent Provocateur, Bordelle, La Perla, etc.), Gatto doesn’t believe Liviara will find itself at a cost of labor disadvantage. Additionally, Liviara’s proximity to its customers will make it more responsive to their needs.
Liviara’s debut line itself, launching publicly later this summer, merges two disparate styles of thinking about lingerie, as Gatto explains. “I saw that some lingerie was all geared towards the softer, more romantic side and some of it was geared towards the edgier, more bondage-influenced side. Our line merges the two.”
By both capturing and emphasizing dualities like this, Liviara believes it can fulfill the gamut of their customers’ boudoir sensuality. “Every year, the line will launch around a new theme. This year’s theme is Marie Antoinette. We focus on two sides of her story – Marie was loved at the beginning of her reign and condemned at the end, so our lighter line is called Beloved and the darker line is Condemned.”
Based on yet-to-be-released images of Liviara’s first major photoshoot, Gatto and her designers have created pieces vibrant and provocative enough to be a hit in a social media age that has made it easy for consumers to be exposed to more risqué options than those available at department stores or traditional mall retailers like Victoria’s Secret. Instagram, in particular, has shown how lingerie can exist as both a provocation and a symbol of female empowerment – just see the network’s lingerie community.
Building a New Name in Luxury
Liviara’s home in St Louis sets it apart from more than just the well known European lingerie houses. Successful American fashion brands are, more often than not, based out of New York or Los Angeles, while startups tend to call New York or the Bay Area home.
Discussing this, Gatto is upbeat, “A lot of fashion is based in New York, but there’s a huge emerging fashion population in places like Nashville. One of the advantages I’ve found is the cost of living for our employees. One of the things we really try to focus on at Liviara is quality of life for employees and an employee friendly work environment, especially for our seamstresses.”
She also emphasizes that she hasn’t been alone in recognizing the benefits of working out of St. Louis, which include the low cost of shipping around the country. “It’s been really well embraced. A fashion incubator is starting downtown that’s bringing in some great people, and we’ve had one person come from New York to help us run the business, in addition to a surprising number of resumes from around the country from people willing to relocate.”
Given its luxury sensibilities, its no surprise that Liviara is initially targeting its marketing towards 35 to 55-year-old consumers with the money to splurge on high quality lingerie. This means that, beyond Instagram, targeted media on Facebook and advertising on Pinterest will be vital to Liviara.
One issue Gatto is expecting to face is breaking through their customers’ traditional method of fitting and buying lingerie in person. Once again, she sees Liviara’s location as a potential solution as a way to respond to customer requests and alterations more quickly than competitors would be able to.
Gatto also plans on opening a line of small scale boutiques or pop up shops, starting in St. Louis at the end of 2017, where customers will be able to get personalized service and try on Liviara’s latest designs in a comfortable luxury setting.
For now, the team is focusing on getting the company’s platform ready for their launch on September 1st. That means pulling together the company’s backend and putting the finishing touches on their new site, which will launch in the lead up to the first line’s public unveiling.
While Gatto and the Liviara team are proud of their made in the USA ethos, they also know that the primary indicator of their success will be the lingerie itself. Retailers and consumers interested in seeing the company has under wraps can keep tabs on them via facebook, twitter, Instagram or their official site.