Haute couture is meant for the delight of the eyes and the awe of the senses, not the touch of hands. At least, this is how the definition ran just until Moda Operandi announced itself as the first luxury multi-retailer in the US to open its doors on an invitation-only basis.
Needless to say, only the elite clientele of the fashion world will be granted entrance. They will gain access into the ultra-luxury two-story Upper East Side shopping salon on Maddison Avenue.
Moda Operandi – The Gateway to Haute Couture
A Startup Business Model Races to the Finish Line
The e-commerce retailer appeared on the fashion scene in 2010. Aslaug Magnusdottir, an Icelandic entrepreneur and co-founder of Moda Operandi, defined the concept as giving ‘women the power to choose from the full collection.’ In other words, the retailer acted as the middle-man to preorder haute couture creations directly from the designers.
The modus operandi of the startup is hosting online trunk shows in the first 24 hours following a fashion show. Usually, what you see on the couture runway stays on the couture runway. However, Moda Operandi offers access to those designer works of art so they will materialize in our wardrobes as well.
In 2012, the retailer vowed to remain online. ‘We came to the conclusion that New York just doesn’t need another store’, said Magnusdottir at the time. However, trends change. And so do minds.
Moda Operandi – From Online Retailer to Brick-and-Mortar New York Sensation
Moda Operandi recently opened their first brick and mortar outpost in New York. Magnusdottir, together with her partner, Vogue contributor Lauren Santo Domingo, envisioned it as the American, more easy-going version of the Colette Boutique in Paris. Despite its apparent availability, Moda Operandi is still operating within the veiled, upscale world of haute couture.
The two words dig to the essence of fashion luxury. Some estimates number the couture customers in the world at 2000. Moda Operandi has no interest to raise that number any higher. After all, the price for one exclusive custom-fitting piece of clothing defined as haute-couture could easily equal the entire H&M summer collection.
Prices start at about $100,000 for one item and peak at $300,000, or slightly more. Demi-couture is on offer, as well, with a more affordable price tag of $50,000.
Deborah Nicodemus, the company’s CEO, explained the difference between the haute and demi-couture: ‘A demi-couture dress is where the silhouettes already exist, and modifications are made. They’re adding a new fabric or they’re changing the color to fit the customer’s look and style.’
Once the client orders a handmade designer creation, it takes up to three months for the piece of clothing to be ready. It’s a laborious and thorough process which requires thousands of hours of atelier work and elaborate embroidery and embellishments. It also requires the stamp of the Chambre Syndicale, the Parisian regulating commission. They determine which fashion house has proven worthy of being haute couture. All these efforts account for the whopping price tag.
Aside from the trunk shows and haute-couture services, the New York Moda Operandi outpost also features a fine jewelry room with state-of-the-art pieces, at-hand stylists and occasional small-scale, intimate fashion shows for its high-end clientele.