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The BoF Podcast: Highsnobiety to Partner with Prada on E-Commerce Launch

The streetwear platform plans to launch its own private label before the end of the year and projects that its online shop will account for 50 percent of overall revenue within five years. Founder David Fischer talks about the new initiative.
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NEW YORK, United States — Highsnobiety, a media authority on streetwear and the culture that surrounds it, will launch its long-awaited global e-commerce platform late next month, BoF has learned.

The 14-year-old lifestyle publication will kick off its online shop May 22 with an exclusive partnership to carry Linea Rossa by Prada, a sportswear-driven line first introduced in the 1990s that the brand resurrected last year. Future products and collaborations will be “dropped” every week, a release model that has come to define the streetwear community’s approach to shopping.

Highsnobiety founder David Fischer projects that in three to five years, the e-commerce platform will make up half of the media company's total operations and eventually launch a private-label line.

“Ultimately the Highsnobiety commerce model is where we’d be dynamically dropping products over time, sometimes once a week, several a week, where we team up with brands to strategically release product in a content-led model,” he told BoF, defining the online shop as a “true fusion of content and commerce.”

The website, which Fischer began in 2005 as a blog, now boasts more than nine million unique visitors every month, and raised $8.5 million in its first round of external capital in 2018. That funding was earmarked for branded content, events businesses and e-commerce.

Under its parent group, Titel Media, also founded by Fischer, Highsnobiety already operates an in-house creative agency called Highsnobiety Plus, which creates brand partnerships with the likes of Givenchy and Nike. The agency accounts for most of the company’s business but Fischer hopes that the e-commerce vertical will soon catch up.

“We’re excited about the fact that we can give the stories and the people behind these products space that nobody else can,” he said. “A normal retailer or e-comm retailer is not focused on the stories. [They] don’t have the spaces to tell the stories where we absolutely do.”

Highsnobiety was able to convince Prada to be its inaugural partner, Fischer added, by appealing to the luxury brand’s appetite for a younger male audience. “We can close that loop [for them], to not only talk about their product but also give access to that product,” he said.

The media house, which has been profitable since its inception, joins the ranks of Glossier and Goop — blogs that monetised their following by selling branded products. In the case of Glossier, it was a direct-to-consumer beauty line. Goop’s multi-brand shop now carries a significant number of its own private label supplements and skincare goods.

Private label will be part of Highsnobiety’s e-commerce offerings by the end of this year, Fischer said, though the site has experimented with branded merchandise in the past. Having a direct-to-consumer model will inform the site on “what to bring to market,” he added, “It’s not something we’ll do easily overnight … We don’t just want to do some t-shirts, we don’t just want to do some ‘merch,’ as everybody wants to call it these days.”

Simply put, we want to make sure we own every customer touchpoint.

While Highsnobiety already participates in affiliate marketing through product-focused articles — “The Earth-Tone Color Trend is the Natural Next Step for Your Wardrobe,” for example — selling products directly is a different undertaking.

The online shop was more than 12 months in the making, and is managed in-house by Highsnobiety, which was able to recruit tech talent in Berlin, home of the fashion e-commerce giant Zalando. Taking a cue from Glossier's playbook, Highsnobiety is set on controlling every element of its digital retail business.

“We are stocking the product, shipping the product — everything customer -facing we are doing,” Fischer said. “Simply put, we want to make sure we own every customer touchpoint.”

Companies with vibrant media arms such as Highsnobiety and Glossier are suited to sell products because they already have a built-in community, media columnist Amy Odell wrote last year — even when it comes to affiliate marketing, consumers will trust their specific taste. The key for Highsnobiety to maintaining a tightly curated edit with what it carries is a complete separation from the brand partnership vertical of the business, Fischer said.

“The one absolute rule is that we can only have the best product in the world, being [sold] solely on our site. How do we achieve that? Keep commerce and brands partnership team separate,” he said. “We have literally this Chinese wall we put up there.”

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