Savage X Fenty has big ambitions for physical retail.
On the heels of the provocative label’s latest streaming runway extravaganza, the inclusive intimates startup Rihanna founded three years ago confirmed plans to open “multiple locations” in 2022.
“Retail, we think, is an important component for us,” co-president and chief merchandising and design officer Christiane Pendarvis said in a Bloomberg interview last week, noting that comfort and fit are paramount when purchasing lingerie. “There are just customers who don’t feel comfortable purchasing online, and they want to be able to go physically try the product on—touch, feel, make sure they’ve found the right size and the right fit for them.”
The move into the physical realm will mark a significant evolution of the three-year-old company’s digital-first origins. Savage X Fenty follows the membership-based model that powered Fabletics, its Kate Hudson co-founded sister brand, to success in the nine years since the athleisure startup’s debut. Savage X members pay a monthly $49.95 fee that can be applied to their brand purchases. They receive discounts of up to 25 percent off, and can skip monthly payments as often as they want without incurring penalties.
After its overall sales jumped 200 percent during 2020, in February, Savage X Fenty announced a $115 million Series B, bringing its total valuation to $1 billion with an investment from L Catterton, the LVMH-backed private equity firm. At the time, the brand teased an expansion into athleisure and plans to open brick-and-mortar stores.
Pendarvis described the pandemic’s influence on consumer behavior as “a perfect storm in a positive way.”
“As a direct-to-consumer brand, we spend a lot of our advertising and marketing dollars on social media channels,” she added. “Everyone was at home, so everyone was consuming significantly more social media.”
September’s Savage X fashion spectacle at L.A.’s Westin Bonaventure Hotel gave shoppers yet another way to browse and buy. Models and entertainers like Adriana Lima, Gigi Hadid, Emily Ratajkowski, Normani, Erykah Badu, Ricky Martin, Vanessa Hudgens, Cindy Crawford and Joan Smalls took center stage, while watchers could immediately purchase the on-screen looks through Amazon Prime.
“Overall, we continue to just redefine… our model where you can find the collection, right as the show airs,” Pendarvis said. “It’s click-to-buy, see now, buy now—which is just a different model than most people approach in this industry.” Each new runway event has unlocked new consumer insights. “I think every year we really strive to take [it] to another level, to create something far beyond the traditional fashion show,” she added.
Savage X Fenty debuted its first men’s styles during last year’s event, and the brand has since doubled down on those offerings. “We were really surprised that men’s has turned out to be such an opportunity for us,” Pendarvis said, noting that last year’s capsule collection—which included just a few underwear styles—sold out in 12 hours.
Since then, Savage X dropped a Valentine’s day range and a Pride-themed collection, and fully committed to men’s as a permanent fixture in August. After showcasing an expanded range of boxers, briefs and lounge staples like satin robes, Pendarvis said that “men’s has probably been the star, quite frankly, of the fashion show in terms of sales performance.” The blossoming interest highlights the fact that men are “looking for fun, interesting novelty—beyond just functional intimate apparel.”
A gender-neutral hooded onesie style made with ultra-soft sweatshirt fleece has been popular. “It was such an important seller for us last year that we’ve expanded the color choices added graphic options to it,” Pendarvis said. The piece will anchor Savage X Fenty’s holiday collection, which will also see more products in sleep and loungewear—areas the executive believes will continue to grow. “That is such an important, critical trend for how people are living their lives,” she said. “Our customers have told us, ‘We love this product from you. We want to see more of it.’”
Intimates and casual apparel have performed well during the pandemic even as sales across other categories have stalled. Size-inclusive, flesh-tone lingerie is on the rise. Last year, lingerie leader Gelmart expanded its range of bras and underwear to include more casual, athleisure-inspired offerings, while fit-focused bra brand ThirdLove recently teamed with plus-size womenswear startup Dia&Co to bring its selection to a wider audience this summer. In June, Israeli manufacturer Delta Galil gained the rights to produce bras and underwear for Adidas and Wolford amid burgeoning intimates business for both brands.
Additional reporting by Jessica Binns.