Elizabeth and James: an America's Hottest Brands Case Study

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Elizabeth and James
Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen have made a splash in the fashion world, both with their own keen sense of style and with several lifestyle brands of their own. One of those brands, Elizabeth and James, appears to have hit a sweet spot, with growth of more than 500% since its fall 2007 launch. Co-designed by the Olsens, the brand is now carried in more than 300 stores. It's also expanded beyond apparel to include licenses for jewelry, shoes and men's apparel. Jill Collage, exec VP at Dualstar Entertainment Group, said bags and eyewear are coming soon. Also on tap: international expansion. Ms. Collage says about 35% of the business is done internationally, while the remainder is in the U.S. There's also an opportunity for branded stores in the next 18 to 24 months.

"Honestly, we dream big," Ms. Collage said. "We continue to grow our distribution and grow with our partners."

The recession has helped the brand, as high-end retailers are increasingly looking to contemporary price points. Ms. Collage says the average price point is around $395, though outerwear and leather items are priced as high as $500 to $700. The line mostly attracts women 18- to 30-years old, though some older women are also fans.

"The timing was right, no question. With Elizabeth and James, [consumers] are getting a lot of design for the money," she said. "And the girls' involvement certainly helps, making sure that they focus on the relationships with editors. Especially with the recession, we saw some of the books that weren't so interested in Elizabeth and James, [asking] especially in the past 18 months, 'What can you show me that's $500 and under?'"

So far, the brand has shied away from traditional advertising, preferring to focus on private appearances by the Olsens at select stores, as well as Elizabeth and James' own website and publicity materials. The appearances typically involve just 30 to 50 of the store's top clients, allowing the Olsens to pick out looks for customers, Ms. Collage said. "They really are very hands-on in the design and everything else," she said. "They don't want it to just be a celebrity brand where they've [just] put their names on it."

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