Express Launches digital-first DTC wellness brand
Express has launched a digital-focused, direct-to-consumer (DTC) brand. Called UpWest, the “purpose-driven lifestyle” brand focuses on “comfort” with a wellness message and give-back component.
With an “Invitation To Unwind” mantra, Upwest.com offers a range of casual apparel, loungewear and sleepwear items, along with sleep aids, CBD products and home goods, like candles and bath salts from third-party vendors.
“UpWest is a brand targeting Millennial consumers who are intentional about their journey to find a greater sense of peace and calm in a chaotic world,” said Jamie Schisler, SVP and chief comfort officer of UpWest, in a statement.
The brand also introduced The UpWest Foundation, which will donate annually one percent of sales up to $1 million to charitable organizations focused on “providing comfort to the body, mind and spirit.” Initial charity partners are Freedom Dogs of America, Mental Health America and Random Acts.
To launch the concept, the brand will send a mobile pop-up, The UpWest Cabin, to Columbus, Chicago, Nashville, Denver and Austin to give consumers “a first-hand look into the brand” with free yoga and meditation classes.
UpWest will manage its own inventory, merchandising, design and ecommerce (using the Shopify platform) while leveraging Express for areas like supply chain, logistics and HR.
Digital-first brands such as Glossier, Allbirds, Everlane and Casper are seen by many as able to move faster when coming to market and build strong social media followings. By launching an online-only offshoot, legacy brands also look to gain more freedom to experiment.
The closest comparison to Express’s initiative appears to be Hill City, a men’s athleisure brand launched online last October by Gap Inc. Hill City soon found its way into some stores of Athleta, also owned by Gap, and recently opened its first store in San Francisco.
Speaking to Forbes, Paul Munford, founder of Lean Luxe, the luxury newsletter, believes the “baggage” of being associated with a legacy retailer will weigh on the perception of UpWest among savvy consumers versus how they view independent start-ups. He added, “However, execution will always ultimately be the key here. Spinoffs need to feel like their own entity, as opposed to a sub-brand of the legacy retailer.”
- Express, Inc. Introduces New Direct-to-Consumer Lifestyle Brand UpWest – Express, Inc./Business Wire
- Express Launches UpWest, A New Lifestyle Spinoff Brand – Forbes
- Gap Inc. Announces Hill City, a Premium Performance Lifestyle Brand for Men – Gap Inc./Business Wire
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Are there many advantages for legacy retailers in launching lifestyle brands digitally first versus at physical stores? Does the comfort, wellness and give-back message hold promise for UpWest’s success?