Ciara and Russell Wilson are making a name for themselves outside of their respective careers in entertainment and sports through The House of LR&C, a fashion company they co-founded in 2020 with CEO Christine Day. While many celebrity-backed companies have come and gone, the power couple is looking to create a long-lasting legacy by using their platform to break down barriers in what has traditionally been an exclusive industry, and develop fashion that benefits the planet.
When announcing their launch in December 2020 — amid the country’s racial reckoning — the couple said in a statement, “As African American business leaders we understand the importance of unity and are leaning into our belief that a better world is possible. We are passionate about working with the next generation of leaders, fighters and overcomers, to help us create a purpose-led house that delivers large-scale positive impact while also inspiring the good in others.”
Leading the ship is Day, who served as CEO. of Lululemon from 2008 to 2013. At The House, she oversees three brands: Lita by Ciara, Human Nation and Wilson’s Good Man Brand, which launched in 2016 and has since been revamped.
Day told FN that she was looking to make an impact at a purpose-led company, which is why the founders formed The House as a Public Benefits Corp, a move that holds the business to a “triple bottom line:” people, planet and profit.
“Right from the beginning, I saw that we had this huge opportunity to build a company that was consciously created from thread all the way through the customer journey to the disposal of products at the end,” Day explained to FN. “My conversation with Russell and Ciara was, if we can build that type of company, I’m in. If we’re just building a celebrity-endorsed brand for Ciara that’s part of the fast-fashion movement, I’m out.”
The fashion industry has a long trail of celebrity labels that have failed over the years, and Day said it often is due to a lack of business savvy. “Many don’t understand the economics of the industry, the economics of the different channels or how to build brands that stand for something beyond just the celebrity that’s endorsing them,” she said.
Stars that are succeeding in the business are the ones that own their companies; have a creative role while building a business with values, such as diversity and sustainability; and that hire the right people. Kim Kardashian’s success with Skims is one example. The company was co-founded with Emma Grede and her husband, Jens
Grede, who also oversee Khloe Kardashian’s Good American, as well as Frame Denim.
For Ciara and Wilson, the recipe for success is there. They have a combined social reach of more than 70 million, which generates noticeable results for the company. For instance, when the couple post their date night outfits, Day said there is a 1,500% increase in traffic to the website if they’re wearing their own product lines.
DOWN TO BUSINESS
Each of The House’s three brands fill a unique space in the market. At Good Man, design director Jonathan de Lagarde said he aims to modernize the elevated menswear line while refining its accessible luxury apparel and
footwear. At Lita, de Lagarde works closely with Ciara to create a tomboy chic offering that makes a statement.
Ciara said, “I have dreamt about launching my own women’s line for years. Launching Lita this past August is definitely one of my highlights with The House. This collection reflects how I express myself in my everyday moments — on the red carpet, on stage, date nights and spending time with my family. It’s a way of communicating for me, so I’m blessed to be able to make my dream a reality.”
“While each season’s concept may be different, it’s making sure they’re still quintessential Ciara. It’s mixing high-low, with baggy and cropped pieces, making the line as diverse as she is,” de Legarde added. “And footwear is a
big part of it as well. Ciara loves a chunky boot. She loves prints. So injecting those into the footwear is a key component.”
Human Nation, meanwhile, was founded around the idea of a gender-inclusive essentials brand. “It’s about the story of accessibility, individuality, but making sure that everyone feels welcome,” said de Lagarde.
Up to now, the company has primarily been funded by Ciara, Wilson, Day and management. Recently, however, The House closed a more than $7 million fundraising round with a group of participating investors including Harlem Capital, Ames Watson, Darco Capital, Lightspeed Venture Partners, MTC (More than Capital), Williams Family Trust and Michael D. Williams.
Since its launch, the firm has made steady progress, and Day expects a 70% to 100% growth rate this year as well.
What is moving the needle is its sales approach that includes both wholesale and direct-to-consumer. At wholesale, key partners include Nordstrom, Revolve and Revolve Man. Shea Jensen, EVP and GMM of men’s and
women’s apparel at Nordstrom, told FN the two companies share a common goal of creating a meaningful connection through serving their customers. “Our goal is to bring the most relevant and inspirational assortment of
brands and merchandise to our customers, and to continue to work with brands in new and innovative ways,” Jensen said.
While many new fashion companies prioritize DTC channels, Day said she believes in the power of wholesale. “In the launch of Lita, Nordstrom took 150 items. If I tried to fund that as a DTC-only brand and buy that much inventory at the minimum order quantities, I wouldn’t have had enough capital to do it,” she explained. “I convert my inventory to cash faster as a small company, I’m more capital efficient. A lot of DTC-only companies stall out around $30 to 40 million in growth because customer acquisition costs are so high these days that their controllable margin can be very low. In wholesale, you make a stronger contribution margin.”
Since Good Man Brand is the longest running label within The House of LR&C, it makes up the largest portion of the business, with its footwear collection accounting for 40% to 45% of total sales. Top-selling styles include the Legend sneaker and the Legend Z. Though Lita and Human Nation have smaller shoe lines by comparison, Day sees opportunity in the fashion sneaker space for both labels.
Revolve’s chief merchandising officer, Lauren Yerkes, said, “We love that Lita by Ciara features essential silhouettes and designs made for everyday wear, yet still has an elevated look for any occasion. The selection is diverse with everything from ready-to-wear to shoes and accessories that are effortlessly cool and modern while practical.”
The company has tapped Gemo Wong, a former Nike and Jordan designer, to take all the brands’ sneaker styles to the next level with the goal of attracting a new and younger consumer.
Because the company had such a strong start with wholesale, it currently makes up more than 80% of the business, but over the next two years, Day aims to move to a 70-30 ratio, with the majority of sales coming from The House’s own channels, including brick-and-mortar. In February, the company debuted its first physical store in Seattle and plans to open three to four more locations this year.
“If you’re truly consumer focused, you go where consumers are,” said Day, noting that the first outpost was built for only $41,000. With that template, she is looking to set an industry standard for a smaller store footprint that uses less inventory.
GETTING THE GREEN LIGHT
One element that company leaders say is setting The House apart among retailers — and attracting investors — is its environmental focus, which permeates the entire organization.
For instance, the business is a certified B Corp, it follows the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and it has created the “Goods Mandate” that helps the company choose preferred materials by the Textile Exchange. Additionally, The House requires over 70% of materials come from its better and best categories.
“We will not change this industry unless we give the customer what they’re looking for, which is true fashion with true sustainability at accessible price points,” explained Day, who emphasized that last characteristic. “The only increased cost we have to build a sustainable company is the auditing and certification and verification fees. Your
material costs are more, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t build an affordable product that’s priced well in the marketplace.”
But don’t think they’re making fast fashion.
“What we can’t do anymore is build incredibly cheap products with incredibly cheap materials that are disposable with the less-than-life sustaining [wages] that we pay Third World countries,” said Day.
Another former Lululemon exec, Therese Hayes, holds the title of chief sustainability and business development officer at The House. She said the fact that the company is working off a blank page allows her more license to get this right. But operating sustainably in today’s marketplace continues to be challenging, especially as more brands strive to incorporate eco-friendly materials into their products.
“What that creates is this strange situation in demand,” said Hayes. “Three percent of cotton worldwide is actually organic. But if you looked at how many people are saying that they’re using organic cotton, it’s in the neighborhood of 20%. The problem is supply. You’ve got to create a market for that transitional cotton. So how do we help with
a solution that would be important for the future? That’s some of the work that we’re in.”
Part of that solution could come from legislation. New York’s Fashion Sustainability and Social Accountability Act is making progress. The bill, which is under consideration by the New York State Assembly, would hold the industry’s biggest brands accountable by requiring companies with more than $100 million in revenue to disclose their environmental impact and map out their supply chain, among other requirements, or face penalties.
“With the way the world is going, consumers are going to demand more transparency. That’s why transparency is
the first step,” explained Hayes. “As we learn and grow, we have to be honest about what we’re doing. But not so you can use it as a soundbite, not so that you can greenwash. Bring the consumer along in that journey.”
On The House’s website, it lays out its progress toward becoming a carbon neutral organization, sharing its plans on multiple fronts, from transportation and distribution to packaging, manufacturing and design.
For instance, the company committed to completing a baseline footprint for carbon this year, and for water and waste in 2023. By 2024, it will set reductions for each. In the meantime, customers can participate in being more
environmentally friendly by purchasing carbon offsets at checkout. However, Hayes noted that offsetting is not the ultimate solution, but a piece along the journey.
FOR THE COMMUNITY
As a Black-founded business, The House of LR&C is committed to not only making a positive impact for the Earth, but to also empowering women, the LGBTQAI+ community, those with disabilities and Black, Indigenous and people of color. Inclusivity is a touchstone at the company where Black designers are at the helm of design and development.
In addition, the company donates 3% of its total income from company sales to the direct support of marginalized communities through the Why Not You Foundation, which was established in 2014 by Wilson and Ciara, dedicated to education, children’s health and fighting poverty.
With that also comes an opportunity to reduce waste: Product returns and samples can be donated to the Friends of the Children nonprofit, which works with Why Not You Foundation, to be auctioned to raise money or
given to children in need.
“[Our donation] is 3% because Russell’s jersey is No. 3,” said Hayes. “The company name — Love, Respect and Care — came from them. They thought about what words actually described their values, and it is around this
idea of giving back.”
Added Day, “What Russell and Ciara stand for in their personal lives and what they’re known for is being very humanistic, approachable people who are egoless. They’re passionate about making that difference. So everything they stand for and the causes they take on, it all has to be part of the brand for it to be authentic.”