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Agenda-setting intelligence, analysis and advice for the global fashion community.

The BoF Podcast: Building Disruptive Direct-to-Consumer Brands

Speaking at BoF West, the entrepreneurs behind Allbirds, Hims and Hers and Good American outline the keys to their brands’ success.
Nick Blunden, Hilary Coles, Tim Brown and Emma Grede speak onstage at BoF West in California | Source: Getty Images for The Business Of Fashion

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LOS ANGELES, California — What are the links between sustainable footwear, men's hair loss treatment and jeans made in an inclusive size range?

They are the hero products of three direct-to-consumer brands: Allbirds, Hims and Good American respectively. They are also the result of entrepreneurs discerning a market opportunity which, coupled with a DTC business model, bypassed traditional retail channels and disrupted their chosen sector.

The panel of entrepreneurs, Hims and Hers Co-Founder Hilary Coles, Allbirds Co-Founder and Co-Chief Executive Tim Brown and Emma Grede, co-founder and chief executive of Good American, outline elements of brand-building such as adapting to changing social platforms, customer acquisition and their selective approaches to brick-and-mortar retail.

The DTC game, however, is a double-edged sword. Having a direct line to the customer allows companies to foster a sense of community, purpose and real-time feedback — as Brown puts it, product development for Allbirds is "closer to software than it is traditional footwear manufacturing" thanks to its potential for quick turnaround in response to comments — but the vocal nature of many DTC brand customers creates a new culture of accountability. "If you ask customers for feedback," says Grede "my god, you’re going to get it — good or bad or ugly."

To contact The Business of Fashion with comments, questions, or speaker ideas please e-mail podcast@businessoffashion.com.

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