“I don’t want to say it but it’s more… commercial?” said Tanner Richie at a preview of his and his partner Fletcher Kassel’s fall 2024 collection.
The word “commercial” should not be taboo, but it does carry a certain connotation among the fashion cognoscenti. Commercial often equates to boring and uninspired, overly merchandised, and even monotonous, but Tanner Fletcher is none of those things. The better way of describing where the brand is at the moment would be, as said by Kassel: “the business is business-ing.”
Kassel and Richie have been watching their business experience growth while also witnessing a restructuring of the market. “We’re seeing growth because we only know this,” said the designers of the industry landscape today, explaining that they’ve also made sure to nurture their direct to consumer channel. Buys have shrunk for many independent designers and young brands of late. Chalk this up to an inevitable adjustment after a period of overzealous buying from retailers post-pandemic, or simply a reaction to the current wholesale landscape. Still, Kassel and Richie are full steam ahead, plotting to expand their so far successful made-to-measure business into the wedding space (“is it bridal if they’re not just brides?”), and looking to develop their vintage resale business, which they say has also been well received. “Our customers associate the brand with vintage,” said Kassel. “They will go to our website and buy a sweater along with some vintage candlesticks,” added Richie.
Fittingly, this collection explored the theme of an estate sale. Kassel and Richie are amateur vintage collectors turned dealers. They source antique home wares or clothes, use them to inspire their collections, and then flip them by selling them on their website. It’s a clever system, with a decent profit margin depending on how they price each item. Where that applied to their ready-to-wear most literally was in a tailored jacket with vintage brooches. Each one will be different, the designers explained, as they’ll handpick which pieces of their collection to apply to each style sold.
Picking up from last season, Kassel and Richie also took to building their catalogue of core silhouettes, expanding their denim range and knitwear selection. The couple’s bow suit from the spring 2023 lineup continues to be a bestseller: “We’re a bit sick of them, but it’s still fun,” joked Richie of the appliqués, which have also taken over TikTok with the now pervasive “coquette” trend. Regardless, here the design duo took to refreshing the style with ingenuity, adding wire inside each bow. They also expanded on their pinstripe tailoring story from last season, adding frilly laces to jackets and coats, and made a very covetable hefty puffer jacket out of sheer floral sequins. The niche they’ve built for themselves consists of adding these dainty delicate details to traditionally masculine fabrications and styles. It works, and there’s ample room to build on here, moving forward past the more straightforward juxtapositions.
Kassel and Richie have been savvy thus far when it comes to their business choices. Now a few seasons into the wholesale of it all, they’ve resolved to be more authoritative with their offer rather than bending to retailers’ desires. “They ask us to do things and then don’t buy them, or then say the sell-through isn’t good,” explained Richie, “but now we’re listening to ourselves first.” Up next the goal should be to keep their focus without becoming formulaic in their approach. What has helped this label find its groove is its sense of whimsy. Even the most prolific of best sellers are born from a combination of instinct and a sense of play.