How Moda Operandi Is Betting on Emerging Designers—and Vice Versa

Designers in The Platform have a unique take on style. Click through to meet all four designers.
Korean-born Yeon Park started her eponymous label in 2014 after interning with Thakoon, Proenza Schouler and Donna Karan.
Eleanor Balfour, a Parsons graduate, spent a year assisting Oscar de la Renta before debuting her namesake range in 2014.
Olesya Kononova and Anastasia Riabokon design and produce their entire range in Kiev, Ukraine. The brand is known as Lake Studio.
Markarian is designed by Alexandra O'Neill, who is based in New York.

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There’s no retail destination quite as skilled at discovering the next big thing as Moda Operandi. The unconventional luxury retailer operates on a rolling trunk show schedule, which allows their customers to pre-order and pre-pay for their REZA baubles, Danse Lente bucket bags, Dorateymur mules, SemSem denim dressesFabrizio Viti sandals and Lein modern suits. Understandably, these names are far lesser known than, say, Versace, Marni, Vera Wang and Hueb, but those burgeoning talents are a big reason why customers return to the site season after season (and in droves during Fashion Month) to stock up on stylish threads that they won’t actually receive until a few months after their purchase.

So it comes as little surprise that today, MO announced the creation of The Platform, a dedicated space on their site specifically for emerging designers. But it’s more than just a nice chunk of digital real estate; The Platform will serve as an incubator of sorts for young designers who could benefit from a well-heeled hoist from the world of retail.

Through this program, emerging and new designers will benefit from MO’s support, in terms of brand development and merchandise planning. Further, each designer will have their own trunk show under The Platform, while a selection of their in-season products will appear in the site’s boutique section.

The first class of emerging talents includes Markarian, Lake Studio, Yeon Park and Eleanor Balfour, all of which were selected for their design prowess, influential point-of-view, production quality and a pre-existing profile in the fashion sphere. Each of the brands has signed with MO for an online exclusive—meaning for a minimum of three seasons, their wares must not be sold on any other e-commerce site. They are, however, free to strike deals with brick and mortar boutiques.

According to Business of Fashion, this program will expand rapidly; in the next three years, MO is aiming to have 25 designers hosted on The Platform. The Platform will also help guide MO in their quest to launch their own private label, which is slated to debut in 2021, per BoF. While assisting this class of emerging talent, the online retail destination can begin to gather intel and start acquiring a network in the design and manufacturing space, that will serve as the groundwork for MO’s own line.

“The Moda customer is a highly sophisticated shopper who comes to us not only for well-known brands, but also to discover designers they may not be as familiar with—mixing labels and price points across all categories. We are dedicated to supporting and nurturing emerging talent, while at the same time, creating a highly elevated experience for our luxury branded business,” said MO’s CEO, Deborah Nicodemus.

While the designers are certainly in good hands at MO, it is a bit of a gamble for both parties. The retailer will be dedicating resources, effort and time towards growing the business of these wide-eyed newcomers, while the designers must forego other e-commerce opportunities—and possibly other sources of revenue—to partake in The Platform. It does, however, seem like in the end, it will pay off for everyone involved.

MO has always kept a discerning eye out for each of the brands they host on their site. “We treat our designers with the utmost respect; we understand that without them we have no product. So my order of priority is always the designer first. Is this in their best interest? Secondly, it’s the customer; are we serving her in the best way?” Santo Domingo told the Observer in January 2016. With this new incubator, it seems like the answer to both of those questions is yes.

Click through the slideshow to learn more about the first designers featured on Moda Operandi’s The Platform.

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