Of a Kind is pretty much the opposite of fast fashion.
The company’s founders, Erica Cerulo and Claire Mazur, have spent years building a very different kind of business. They bring together clothes, jewelry, accessories and home goods from small, independent designers — produced in limited quantities — and make them available to anyone with an Internet connection. They also personalize every item by telling the story of the designer behind it. In a world of $7 sweaters that last for a few months, their vision for your wardrobe is refreshing.
The idea behind Of a Kind is that by highlighting unique items from up-and-coming designers and telling their stories, it helps to build a connection between buyer and producer. It’s part of a larger trend, in its founder's eyes, toward a more conscientious approach to how we curate our own sense of identity and wardrobes.
“People are starting to realize that you can wear things more than once … even in the same week,” says Mazur. “That whole thing speaks to more conscientious consumption: spending more on one item than ... on a bunch of items.”
Of a Kind exists not only to infuse wardrobes with unique items, but also to support the young designers producing them. The site offers limited-edition products with a note about how many are available. A gold and silver ring by designer Elizabeth Thompson is available for $208, but only 35 are available. A wool cardigan by Han Starnes is $235, but there are only 40 of a kind.
“We’re excited to support young designers,” says Mazur. “They make up an important part of the fashion ecosystem and helping them continue to have their careers grow … keeps us going.”
Image credit: Of a Kind
Storytelling has always been a part of the Of a Kind business model. Elizabeth Thompson works out of Brooklyn in her own studio and named her jewelry line, Elizabeth Knight, after her two grandmothers. Han Starnes, based in Nashville, started out knitting Christmas hats for friends in high school; her line, Josi Faye, features pieces “you might have inherited from your long-lost New Zealand grandmother."
It’s been a tough road. When Cerulo and Mazur first started in 2010, they waded into the startup world. They had venture capitalists asking who they were like, looking for scale.
“We met with a lot of VCs who asked whether we were like Rent the Runway or Foursquare. That’s been a learning experience and struggle,” says Mazur. “People would be asking us why haven’t we raised 3 million dollars.”
Mazur and Cerulo decided they didn’t want to go that route. Of a Kind just had its fourth anniversary in November (and celebrated with a website redesign). After years of hard work, its founders are now entering their next phase. In 2015, they’ll continue selling entire collections from their designers and pushing further into paid marketing. They say the growth so far has been mostly word-of-mouth.
“Being trendy … conveys a certain thing,” says Cerulo. “But we decided,” continues Mazur, “[that there was a different] answer on our end.”
Their answer was to take the path less traveled.
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