Open Thread: This Week in Style News

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Lee Oliveira for The New York Times

Each week, the Open Thread newsletter will offer a look from across The New York Times at the forces that shape the dress codes we share, with Vanessa Friedman as your personal shopper. The latest newsletter appears here. To receive it in your inbox, register here.

Good afternoon. Hope everyone has recovered from the longest day of the year. I spent at least some of it mulling over a topic that has been much on my mind of late: the double-edged sword that is the pursuit of cool. The concept, not the temperature. I keep hearing stories of successful businesses that owe their results to a willingness not to be cool. First, there was Bonobos, the online men’s brand. I remember co-founder Andy Dunn sitting in my office when they launched, telling me how they had created “a better-fitting pant.” (It originated with college athletes whose big worked-out thighs didn’t fit into normal chinos.) And I remember thinking, “How many Stanford B-school grads trying to strike it lucky with the Next Genius Invention could say that with a straight face?” I mean, it was so… analog. But last week, Walmart bought the business for $310 million. Then this week comes Harper Wilde, a new online bra brand with one of the funniest videos I’ve ever seen and, again, a very simple premise: What if buying women’s underwear was as straightforward as buying men’s underwear?

The founders, Jenna Kerner and Jane Fisher, who met at Wharton, just got tired of the Victoria’s Secretization of underwear and saw a gap in the market for a simpler approach. It’s pretty no-frills, but my guess is it’s going to work for exactly that reason. Both brands solve a problem and make life easier. Isn’t that really what we want, in the end? I recommend you check them out, whether you are a consumer or just someone interested in the e-commerce landscape. Or check…

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