Style

Introducing Arjé, The Luxe New Brand That Wants To Revolutionize Retail

Have this husband-and-wife design duo cracked the see-now, buy-now code?

Oliver and Bessie Afnaim Corral, the husband and wife behind new luxury men’s and women’s essentials brand Arjé, are adorable. Like, too cute for words. When we met at Café de Flore just after Paris fashion week, where the pair presented their third collection—or chapter, as they call it—they were finishing each other’s sentences. Actually, they were correcting each other’s sentences in the most endearing way possible. For instance, Oliver was telling me that, when he moved to New York after working for Carolina Herrera in his native Spain, his English was “really quite bad.”

“No, it was zero,” chimed Bessie, who was wearing a sumptuous navy blue look from the new Fall collection. “It was like, ‘Hello, wee-fee?’” Oliver blushed, and they both laughed. Now, he speaks English better than I do, but what’s so fascinating is that this pair “basically communicated through body language,” as Bessie put it, for months after meeting during a weekend class at Parsons. The teacher suggested that Bessie reach out to Oliver for some help. She was working for Donna Karan’s Urban Zen at the time, and not long after that first encounter, Oliver joined her.

The duo headed up the design team there from 2009, more or less communicating via telepathy. “When someone said blue, we both thought of the exact same shade, tone, reference—we saw exactly the same thing,” said Bessie. “Then, we fell in love,” offered Oliver, gazing in his wife’s direction. “It was pretty intense,” Bessie added.

Six years later, the two wed, and shortly thereafter, their little bundle of joy—Arjé—was born. “When you have a line, it’s like having a baby,” said Bessie. “We were thinking about creating the brand for two years before leaving Urban Zen, but we didn’t really have the ideas together, and the missing link was getting married,” added Oliver. “It was important for us to get married first because we wanted our love to be built on us, not on something we had created,” said Bessie.

Sweet, no?

But about what they created—needless to say, Bessie and Oliver had amassed some pretty serious experience before launching their own line, which debuted earlier this year. And they were well aware that the fashion cycle is in a bit of a kerfuffle, thanks in part to the see-now, buy-now debate. Over the last few years, during which a number of brands have dipped their toes in the see-now, buy-now pool—some, like Burberry, staying for a swim, others, like Tom Ford, running swiftly for the showers—it’s become clear that there is no one-size-fits-all model. The Corrals, however, have pioneered a new approach, and they’re hoping it might start a retail revolution—or, at the very least, get people thinking about production and sales differently.

Essentially, the pair has trimmed down the design, production, and delivery process, which can take over a year, to about four months. How, you might wonder? By skipping the samples, samples being what you generally see march down the runway. Usually, buyers will place their orders after seeing the samples in a show, presentation, or appointment, and those orders will determine what quantities—if any—of each piece will be produced. The consumer, meanwhile, has to wait six months after the collection’s unveiling to buy it because, well, it needs to be made.

“With our business model, everything that we develop, we produce,” said Oliver, who explained that, after showing a collection, they’re able to deliver it in mere weeks. That’s because the designers decide their quantities—not the buyers—which allows them to get a head start on production. If something sells out, it’s gone—there’s no reissuing of a style—but the designers feel that makes their Italian-produced wares all the more special. Furthermore, their past experience at Urban Zen (which, for the record, is a see-now, buy-now pioneer) has allowed them to forecast the demand fairly accurately, and anything that isn’t scooped up by retailers is sold on the brand’s e-commerce platform, or in its pop-up shops, the most recent of which was held this summer in downtown Manhattan.

So does it work for the retailers? They’re warming to it. During Arjé’s first season, 15 skeptical buyers—all of whom warned the Corrals that their budgets for the season were closed—came to see the collection. Twelve placed orders. “Everyone came in being like, Wait, this is the product? And it’s available in two weeks? And I can choose what I want? And you’re going to ship it to me? And oh my god, is this real?” said Bessie. Arjé now has over a dozen retailers internationally, including A’Maree’s in Newport Beach, At Ease in Miami, and Trois Pommes in Switzerland.

This week, Arjé, whose name is a reference to an ancient Greek term that means “the essence of everything,” dropped its third chapter. The edited outing is chock full of the lush, luxury staples the line’s clients—generally metropolitan jet-set types with a flair for the bohemian—have come to love. Inspired by geishas, samurais, and “hippies from the future,” according to Oliver, the range features cozy cashmere and wool knits, a stunning shearling coat, flared suede pants (for her), drop-crotch trousers (for him), and more. As comfy as they are elegant, these clothes aren’t trend-driven, rather, they’re the types of classic garments that will live in your wardrobe for decades. And, when compared to other luxury brands, the prices are competitive—a T-shirt will cost you $140, while that shearling coat rings in at $5,495.

On the horizon is Arjé’s fourth chapter, which will be presented in January and hit stores the following month, and plans for a new pop-up are in the works. More broadly, the Corrals want to grow their company, entice more retailers, and make an impact. “I mean, we’d love to change the industry,” said Bessie, “but for now, we just want to offer something different. And we want to be inspired and be connected with our customer. We want to create a world.” A world without a six-month delivery lag is one that a lot of shoppers would happily live in.

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