Gin Lane, the agency best known for the branding behind retailers such as Harry’s, Sweetgreen and AYR, is phasing out all of its clients with the exception of one: itself. The 11-year-old agency is changing its business model to become a direct-to-consumer retailer instead of an agency. On Tuesday, Gin Lane will become Pattern, which its founders expect to eventually become a parent of as many as five different brands.
“We’re trying out this moniker, d-w-c, direct-with-consumer,” says Nicholas Ling, who had been CEO of Gin Lane and is now CEO and co-founder of Pattern. “We’re trying to build a business that thinks a bit longer term about more meaningful relationships with people.”
The company, which began the planning the transition to retail a year ago by winding down client relationships, employs about two dozen staffers; Ling says that number will double within the next year.
He notes that Pattern will not be just selling a product but helping consumers improve their lives—a familiar refrain among direct-to-consumer brands that seek to build a community of loyalists by “disrupting” a long-stuffy category of retail, like mattress or toothbrushes. As Ling and his Pattern co-founder Emmett Shine, former executive creative director of Gin Lane explain, Pattern plans to help consumers be more present in their lives by making so-called quality time free of phones and social media.
They’ll start by tackling the kitchen. The company expects to debut Equal Parts, a cooking brand that wants customers to get more enjoyment from cooking. The brand will feature in-person events and content as well as sell products. In the next 18 months, Pattern expects to roll out four more brands.
The company, which began the planning the transition to retail a year ago, employs about a dozen staffers; Ling says that number will double within the next year.
Of course, other agencies have also dabbled in the trendy d-to-c space. Ad agency Decoded started its own d-to-c company 42 Birds, which sells cork wellness products, last year. “If you want something done right, you need to do it yourself,” text on the brand’s landing page reads.
For Pattern—whose name comes from the habits of daily life—doing it right involves switching up the company’s branding. While many d-to-c brands, including those that Gin Lane helped design, have a similar look and feel with clean fonts and monochromatic backdrops, Pattern plans to differentiate by being less slick.
“There’s a slickness to subway ads,” says Shine about existing brands. “What’s nice in this chapter is we’re a bit more freed up to be more experimental and push the envelope to where we think communication can go.” Pattern’s visual identity is hand-drawn logos, for example. And while data is helping to inform the strategies of many retail competitors, Pattern is using intuition as a guide.
“We have a really good gut sense of what people are looking for,” Shine says.
Hear from more d-to-c brands—both new and established—at Ad Age Next: Direct-to-Consumer, a conference taking place Sept. 9 in New York City. Buy your tickets here.