Style Spotlight: Chloe Dao

March 20, 2007

Forbes.com

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Style Spotlight

Hitha Prabhakar, 03.05.07, 12:01 AM ETDesigner Chloe Dao, winner of Bravo’s season two Project Runway challenge, can attest to the power of television.

Dao recently announced a deal with television shopping network QVC to sell her newest collection of clothes from her line called Simply Chloe Dao. The pieces, available this May, will include affordable casual dresses, tops, blazers and pants for women.

Her decision to debut on television versus working with a traditional retailer like Bloomingdales, Macy’s or Saks Fifth Avenue, makes her the first Project Runway winner to go with to this strategy. Marc Beckman, chief executive of Designers Management Agency brokered the deal.

“The concept of fashion on television and interactive television especially for Chloe’s new line makes all the sense in the world,” says Beckman. “A content-driven, interactive TV is a model retailers are moving toward, and it was a pivotal career decision for her to sell on QVC first. She will have instant reach to people that may not access to her clothes if she debuted in a traditional retailer.”

And the reach is enormous. QVC airs in 90 million households over a 24-hour period, according to QVC. During Dao’s primetime segment, scheduled sometime between 6 p.m. and 11 p.m., she is expected to reach about 1.5 million people.
Strategic Placement
The push to sell on television first was as much of a strategic deal as it was practical.

Dao, who had a store in Houston prior to becoming a contestant on Project Runway, says courting freestanding retailers can be risky. That’s because designers with these deals must worry about production and shipping costs, as well as maintaining enough cash to cover costs if the merchandise doesn’t sell.

“The $100,000 [you win] only takes you so far,” she says. “Between paying the production people to create the collection and getting them in a retailer, then having to pay them if the merchandise doesn’t sell, you end up blowing through that cash in an instant.”

With the QVC deal, Dao is able to design her clothes without having to worry about fronting the costs. That’s because fabrics, patterns, sample preparation and labor are being covered by an outside production company, who then sell the units to QVC. For Dao, giving up control of production as well as the potential money she could make per unit (Dao is making a percentage of the sale of total pieces sold) is worth it since she doesn’t assume up-front risk.

“If units don’t sell at a retailer like Bergdorf Goodman, it’s my business,” she says. “If they don’t sell on QVC, it’s my ego. For me it’s all about avoiding the risk.”

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