Leota expands physical with Bloomingdale’s partnership

Leota was founded in 2011 by Sarah Carson.

Bloomingdale's recently announced a partnership to sell New York women’s fashion brand Leota. The brand, known for its size-inclusive and vibrantly colored clothing, is now available in the luxury chain department store and on Bloomingdales.com.

Leota was founded in 2011 by Sarah Carson, later joined by her sister Julie, in an effort to make dresses for women of all sizes that were great for work or home. On the brand’s own site, sizes range from XS to 3L. 

“We are so pleased to be working with Bloomingdale’s,” says founder and CEO Sarah Carson. “We believe in fashion for strong, smart women and feel that our vision aligns well with Bloomingdale’s commitment to diversity and inclusion. We are excited to get started and show this new audience that they don’t need to choose between fashion and wearable comfort.”

FierceRetail talked with Carson to learn more about her vision for her brand and the collaboration with Bloomingdale's

FierceRetail: Why a partnership with Bloomingdale's, and why now?

Sarah Carson: The name Bloomingdale's evokes a feeling of luxury and service. Leota customers are out there doing it all, and Bloomingdale's is an escape from her daily pressures and we are thrilled to be a part of that fabulous service to women. Bloomingdale's is interested in expanding their assortment for under $200 and our price point is the best-performing segment in retail right now. 

We’ve already seen a weekend where Bloomingdale's sold through 10% of its Leota inventory at full price, so the strategy is already proving to be successful. Now we're looking for ways to grow our partnership. Bloomingdale's knows that fashion is not just about being fancy, but also about doing the right thing, and that's why we make great partners.

FR: What is the goal for your brand as it enters into this luxury chain?

SC: Our goal is to reach a new audience with our fresh perspective on fashion. Leota represents a way of life—confident, comfortable, easy, vibrant, optimistic. We have a saying at Leota: "Confidence looks good on you." Bloomingdale's shopper is that affluent, style-loving do-er looking for the fresh perspective that Leota offers. Shoppers initially fall in love with our style and stay because Leota is authentic, ethical and empowering, and we’re excited to reach this new audience through the Bloomingdale’s platform. 

FR: I know you have some other retail partners. Can you name a few? How important has this physical presence been for your brand? 

SC: We work with Nordstrom, Stitch Fix, Gwynnie Bee, Isetan and many specialty boutiques in the U.S. and internationally. Our customers often discover Leota at their favorite boutiques because she relies on local shop owners to show her what's new and on-trend. Boutiques are curators, and that is why they will not go away even as physical retail changes. If it weren't for physical retailers, our brand would not exist. Women are shopping through a variety of platforms—rental, subscription, in-store, branded e-commerce, Amazon, etc. You have to serve the consumer in all channels if you want to be part of the future.

FR: How do you integrate your online and offline strategies? 

SC: We are very data-focused because it helps us serve our customer better. We are able to focus digital marketing on regions where we have successful retail locations and utilize online data to tell us where our shoppers live so that we can offer physical retail there. It enhances her experience of the brand when Leota is visible online and in real life. That moment of recognition when she finds Leota in a store creates a connection with the brand and builds a long-standing relationship. 

Leota.com is our opportunity to show our customer what we're all about. We have less control over how our product is shown with our retail partners, so that's why we're really careful about managing our distribution. Our physical presence has shown to boost online sales, to the point that our top sales regions match offline and online. The trick is to be constantly looking to grow in new markets, and that's why partnerships with retailers like Bloomingdale's are so important.

FR: What do you think of talk that traditional stores are dying and malls are losing traffic? 

SC: That’s definitely a reality. The physical retail space is going through some serious change right now. There will always be people who enjoy an in-person shopping experience and the internet will never be able to offer that type of immersive experience. While legacy brands are going through mass store closures, e-commerce brands have the chance to break into traditional retail. We plan to use the treasure chest of data we have to tell us where to open our own physical locations. 

FR: What are some of the challenges of being an omnichannel brand?

SC: One major challenge we’ve faced is spreading ourselves too thin and flooding the market through multiple different channels. We don't want our direct business, boutiques, major retailers and subscription services competing with each other. We are moving toward exclusivity in each channel so that our wholesale partners are offering something unique and we can maintain control over the pricing. Exclusive product has its own challenges though, in terms of development and manufacturing. One reason we have been so successful is that we are focused on servicing a specific woman and are not trying to be everything to everyone. 

FR: What else should retailers know about Leota?

SC: We are always open to new opportunities. The company is based in New York and ethically produced in Brooklyn, and we love collaborating with other brands in the city. We are proud to create lasting partnerships and support a strong local economy, and we are excited to continue creating beautiful and comfortable clothing for hard-working women who want to dress the part.