Over the summer, Chelsea Hansford, the creative director of Simon Miller, found herself avoiding the trip to her downtown L.A. office, and transforming her own Studio City home into a showroom and design space for her colorful, quirky clothing brand. “We were all spending time with the team there, taking photos of the house. And then on Simon Miller's social media platforms, we started putting [photos] up and the reaction was amazing,” she tells TZR. Hansford decided it was time to expand beyond her fashion business and launch a home collection that complemented her existing ready-to-wear and accessories business. It was a reflection of her clothes, and own home, that customers could bring into their own spaces.
And so, in the midst of the pandemic, CaSa was born, a collection of vintage and new products, sourced and created by Hansford’s friends, or produced using excess fabrics from Simon Miller’s core line. “I want it to be more than just ‘Simon Miller is producing some home goods,’” she explains of her decision to include a wide range of curated pieces. “I really want the whole lifestyle element of the house to be shoppable.”
Hansford is one of a number of smaller brands that are thoughtfully shifting their focus into the home space over the last year. As a reaction to the reality of working, exercising, and relaxing all at home, consumers are looking for ways to translate their style into their living spaces. In Hansford’s case, it meant not only being able to use excess fabric and leather, but also offering products at a lower price than her ready-to-wear items and accessories. “I hope that people who long to get a Blackout Platform from us that’s $490 but aren't able to can get a piece of Simon Miller through CaSa,” she explains. “They can get a $40 set of napkins or cool leather coasters for $45 and really have a piece of the brand but not necessarily have to splurge.”
In addition to the incentive for designers to expand their customer base and widen their price point, for some, it has also served as a creative outlet to explore new areas. “The onset of the pandemic came off of fashion month which was meant to be a time for doing a big bulk of business, and things went very very quiet which was...unnerving,” says Amanda Assad, a jewelry designer whose brand Mounser expanded to also include art in 2020. “I threw myself into painting and artistic experimentation as a means of soothing the feeling of uncertainty. I thought, I'll always have my creativity, at least that can never be taken away, so lets just focus on that.”
For Comme Si, tapping the home goods market took a different approach. The brand, which is best known for its luxury socks, teamed up with the NYC-based interior design incubator Lichen for its very first collaboration — a collection of socks along with a co-produced zine and sock laundry bag. "I think people are having to think about form and function in a new way,” explains Comme Si founder Jenni Lee. “In the home, there's more focus on creating a space that works for prolonged working and living. You need furniture that functions well in your space, but also fits into your aesthetic.” She adds that it’s the same concept with fashion. “We’re realizing that we don’t need as much ‘stuff’ as we think we do."
The concept of personal style has always embodied more than just what is worn on the body, but also how one chooses to curate their space. Fashion designers have long looked to architecture, art, and the home as a source of inspiration for their work. Louis Vuitton and artist Jeff Koons debuted a Masters bag collection in 2017 depicting famous works of art on leather bags. Alexander McQueen’s 2013 Resort collection referenced the golden paintings of Gustav Klimnt. Rosie Assoulin’s Fall/Winter 2015 collection was inspired by an Italian cemetery designed by Carlo Scarpa. And major fashion houses like Missoni have long had arms of their business that extend into home goods. You might even remember Virgil Abloh's buzzy collaboration with Ikea in 2019.
But that was all pre-pandemic. With many shoppers confined to their homes over the last year, the rate at which retailers and brands are expanding the breadth of their business is especially notable. “Our audience is more interested in exploring a curated but expansive world of products from established and emerging brands, extending beyond fashion into every aspect of their lifestyle,” Krishna Nikhil, chief merchandising officer for SSENSE explained in a press release announcing the retailer’s expansion into home goods in Dec. 2020. Around that same time, beloved Brooklyn store Sincerely, Tommy launched Raini Home. And just this month, pajama brand Sleeper launched a small collection of home goods centered around nighttime routines and accessories label SVNR announced an expansion into the decorative sphere as well. Like their customers, designers are considering more about how the clothes that they make relate to the spaces that fashion exists in.
"As I saw the [online] reaction, it was like ‘now’s the time to make the whole lifestyle experience shoppable' explains Hansford of how natural the transition proved to be. "Really, I think [it] makes people understand the brand even more."
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