Former Creative Recreation CEO Robert Nand launched his new Grand Voyage men’s collection last year with a direct-to-consumer model, but now he’s making his first move into wholesale through a new partnership with Barneys New York.
The line of boots, high-tops, oxfords and slip-ons, which retails from $195 to $385, is designed to fill a void in the men’s market, the executive said. “It seemed like designer and made-in-Italy products were getting outrageously overpriced,” Nand added. “As a consumer, I didn’t feel comfortable paying $900 for shoes when I knew what it takes to manufacture and produce them.”
Nand said his experience launching Creative Recreation in 2002 was helpful in preparing him for his new foray, but that consumer demands today are different. (Nand sold his interest in Creative Rec in 2013.)
“It’s been a challenge to rethink the way I do everything,” he said. “A simple example is producing shoes seasonally — that’s not how people shop, that’s not how direct-to-consumer works.”
As he navigates the challenges that come with a new business, Nand believes the future of retail is a hybrid of traditional retail relationships and online commerce — and that’s why the Barneys partnership will be an important step for the brand. “Barneys is an experiential retailer. It’s important to me to have our customers be able to actually pick up our collection, try it on and touch and feel the quality for the first time,” Nand explained, noting that the department store’s buyers pride themselves on discovering new brands.
While selling directly to consumers through its website allowed the freshman label to offer its made-in-Italy footwear at lower costs, Nand said the retail price won’t be inflated on the Barneys sales floor.
“Basically, what we did is completely cut out our margin,” he said. “[Being in Barneys] is more of a marketing-customer acquisition play for us as opposed to a revenue stream. It’s getting our footwear on the ideal customer and breaking into those circles that they run into. Maybe they buy shoes from Barneys and their friends go home and Google it and buy it [on our website] in another color.”
Who is the brand’s target consumer? A 25-to-40-year-old male who’s well dressed and understands quality and craftsmanship, according to Nand.
As part of the Barneys initiative, the brand plans to debut a line of leather bags for men (priced around $800) and toiletry styles (around $200). The collection will also be available on the brand’s website.
“The goal now is to build a foundation, and then we will figure out more of a growth pattern,” Nand said. “Looking back at Creative Rec, it was a solid three years before anybody knew anything about us, and then things took off.”