Could LoveShackFancy be American fashion’s next billion-dollar brand?
Founder Rebecca Hessel Cohen and her husband and business partner, Todd Cohen, hope so.
In just eight years, the company has had a remarkable rise. A former Cosmopolitan editor, Hessel Cohen has made storytelling the centerpiece of her Laura Ashley-by-way-of-Hamptons-beach cottage collection of floral miniskirts, inset lace dresses, vintage-inspired knits, print scrunchies, phone covers and more — starting with its playful name.
“When I started hand-dyeing dresses in my mom’s backyard, I went through every possible name for a brand,” said Hessel Cohen, whose mother was an editor at Seventeen magazine. “Then we came up with LoveShackFancy, which is the juxtaposition of fancy with fun, effortless cool. Because our girl, even when she is in the most beautiful tulle, her hair is a mess and she has some grass and mud on her dress.”
Although Hessel Cohen wore a lot of black growing up in New York City, she eventually found her inner romantic.
“I’m a total hoarder of vintage textiles, I love 19th-century early French fabrics, beautiful old chintz fabrics, a mix,” she said of her inspiration. “A lot of our artwork is hand-painted. Every floral has hundreds of components…we’re creating a robust library. And the prints are timeless.”
The brand offers mommy-and-me styles, home decor and has collaborated on activewear and accessories with Beach Riot, Hurley, Superga and more.
“It’s elevated contemporary for women, and for younger girls, we’re the designer brand for them,” she said. “Even if there are a million people copying our miniskirts, at the end of the day, they really want the LoveShackFancy label. They are buying into the greater community, aspirational lifestyle and fun.”
LoveShackFancy is sold through wholesale partners including Nordstrom and Net-a-porter, through its own e-commerce site and in 10 experiential stores, which have continued to open throughout the pandemic. Coconut Grove, Fla., just opened last week, while Charleston, S.C.; Greenwich, Conn.; Houston, and Nashville are up next.
“I find the connection and Todd finds the retail space,” said Hessel Cohen. “Once we announce any store, there are always comments and DMs, and feedback from customers asking us to open in their neighborhood.”
“We saw opportunities and rents that were more favorable in markets we wanted to enter, and vacancies that opened up and made sense,” said Cohen, a former real estate developer who is the brand’s executive chairman. “We look to our data from e-commerce and wholesale partners, and cotenants, which sometimes aren’t that obvious. Our Coconut Grove store looks like it has been there for 40 years. We like to make people in the local community feel comfortable, so we pay attention to the details and bring them in from a design and activation standpoint.”
A favorite of Gen Z, LoveShackFancy went viral this fall when TikTok was flooded with short videos of would-be sorority sisters from the University of Alabama posting their “OOTDs” [outfits of the day] and name-checking the brand.
“When I first saw it, I said don’t show that to anyone, because I didn’t want to get pigeonholed,” said Hessel Cohen, who still handles most of the brand’s social media. “But my original first reaction is often not my reaction when I sit with it for a bit. I realized it was so inspiring that a whole new age group and customer we don’t have as much direct interaction with day-to-day, who are the ones on social media, are so into the brand.”
The hashtag #loveshackfancy has been viewed more than 65 million times on TikTok, and the rush for ruffled miniskirts is showing no sign of stopping.
“Overall our business is up 100 percent year-over-year, and we’ve seen significant growth over all three channels. Wholesale has been incredible, e-commerce and stores. And our businesses are a third, a third, a third,” said Stacy Lilien, president of LoveShackFancy, declining to share revenues. The New York City-based brand employs 150 people, 75 of them in corporate roles.
It is because of its rapid growth that LoveShackFancy is receiving this year’s WWD Honor for Best Performing Fashion Company, Small Cap.
Since Bama Rush, LoveShackFancy has seized on its college cred, recently opening a branded accessories vending machine on the University of Miami campus and inviting students from surrounding schools to a special opening party at the new Coconut Grove store.
“We run an extensive gifting program, but the the Bama Rush evolution on TikTok opened up a new set of influencers that haven’t necessarily been top of mind for us,” said Liam McKessar, senior director of marketing. “In the last six months, we’ve moved away from the more traditional Instagram influencers every brand is speaking to, to engaging a different a set on TikTok and expanding our network in that way.…Our store events are always over the top, so bringing those girls in that environment is a bit different. I don’t think every brand is extending invites like we have,” he said, adding that the LoveShackFancy house in Sag Harbor, N.Y., over the summer also hosted several resident TikTok-ers for content creation and parties.
LoveShackFancy is growing quickly.
“We’ll be opening between six and eight stores in the next 10 months and we’re looking to get into multiple new categories. This year, sunglasses and activewear, and we are in talks to start beauty as well,” said Lilien. “There is so much more we want to do, handbags, shoes, small leather goods, giftable items.”
“Our girls want to have everything they love in the LoveShackFancy way, from a face roller to a restaurant for parties,” said Hessel Cohen. “We’re talking about hotel collaborations in bigger ways, more lifestyle, and much more entry product for younger and college girls. Having our clothing business is incredible, but everything else that comes along with it we have so much opportunity in.”
Lilien is strategic about pricing.
“We look at a pyramid when merchandising, and make sure we have entry, core and luxe, so we’re thinking about all the different girls shopping,” she said. “Entry is $225 for a top or skirt, core is $395 to $495, then we have the luxe customer which we’re happy to see is shopping and wanting to get dressed up. We’re selling gowns for $1,295 really well.”
LoveShackFancy’s bridal collection, $1,995 to $2,500, represents just 2 percent of overall sales. “But we have so many different variations of white dresses she’s wearing to a shower, a bachelorette, or a rehearsal dinner,” said Lilien of the special occasion appeal. “Or she’s wearing our heritage pieces and getting married on the beach.”
Until the recent teen TikTok phenomenon, the average customer was 25 to 45. “It’s being pulled in a lot of different directions, over 40, too,” said Cohen.
“It’s about embracing all different ages and demographics,” added Hessel Cohen, noting that the brand’s recent Target collaboration was a good introduction for new customers.
“There is a little LoveShackFancy in all of us,” she said, explaining how the name also recalls the B52’s 1989 song, “Love Shack.”
“I listened to it all the time growing up…It’s transformative in a way, which is what I hope the brand is. The clothes are just the vehicle to that energy, that world, that LoveShackFancy.”