That’s Haute

by Elise Diamantini

After receiving $31 million in financing from Insight Venture Partners last June, L.A.-based HauteLook launched their dedicated menswear site in August. Keeping with the successful flash sale model, HauteLook offers a limited amount of merchandise at deeply discounted prices for a limited amount of time. At the time of this interview there were 300,000 registered male users out of the total 3 million. I caught up with CEO Adam Bernhard (pictured, left, with HauteLook men’s director Tim Davis) in Las Vegas at the HauteLook Social Media Lounge.

How did you start HauteLook?

I was the EVP of a company that cleared inventory and noticed we had the most success with our own samples sales. I realized the opportunity in off-price, but knew the format needed to change. We knew we could reach a broader audience if we hosted sales on the web. So we launched HauteLook in December 2007 as a women’s ready-to-wear site and have grown the categories to include men’s, kids, shoes, bags, home, beauty, travel, wine, etc.

How is HauteLook different than other flash sale sites?

HauteLook isn’t “Invite-only.” Customers can log-on to our site and sign-up. For menswear, each sale is brand-centric. Haute Look wants to partner with our vendors and selling on our site is a great way for these brands to grow their online profile. We do daily sales with one featured brand because men like consistency. We learned that they like to buy this way: timed, online sales at discounted prices.

What’s doing particularly well?

Denim always does great and we’ve had success with underwear events. Guys are looking for everyday looks and want to feel comfortable. HauteLook isn’t trying to reach that real fashionable guy. We’ve found that men buy brands they know and aren’t willing to take a big risk until they’ve gained our trust. Then they’ll move into discovering new brands. Brands that have sold well on our site are Joseph Abboud, Just A Cheap Shirt and 7 For All Mankind.

How is HauteLook using social media?

Our primary communication with customers is e-mail, but we want to continue the conversation through social media outlets like Facebook, blogs and Twitter. We’ll have special promotions and coupons and even do joint promotions with brands.

Any trends you’re seeing in menswear?

Men are coming into their own when it comes to fashion. I’m seeing an interesting shift from the “metrosexual” man. Guys feel like they can choose what they want to wear without being labeled anymore. I think that notion has a lot to do with the success of skate and surf brands. These brands introduced color and told guys that it is ok to get dressed and care about what you’re wearing. Surf/skate is one niche of retail that’s thriving.