Chinese Laundry was at its peak during the ’90s, back when chunky platforms were big and it was a go-to shoe brand for elevated flip-flops with a woven straw material. It was such a hit that these days, various websites list it as one of the “unforgettable shoes” of that decade.
But in fashion, there’s only so much reminiscing to do. The teenage girls who once patronized the said flip-flops are currently modern working women in their 30s, and clearly, they prefer different kinds of shoes now.
For the Chinese Laundry management team, this is just one of the factors why they felt that a “rebrand” should be afoot already.
“As we began to expand our product assortment two years ago, we knew our voice, branding, and positioning had to change,” says Stewart Goldman, EVP of CELS Enterprises Inc., the parent company of Chinese Laundry and its subsidiaries. “The branding felt dated. We have great top of mind brand awareness and people know the name Chinese Laundry, but not in a modern, fun, fresh way.”
For starters, one of the main problems that Goldman and his fellow executives had to address was a clear definition of Chinese Laundry from its sister brands Dirty Laundry, CL by Laundry and Kristin Cavallari by Chinese Laundry. This was addressed by segmenting each brand by age range and preference, with Dirty Laundry set for women ages 18 to 24, while the flagship Chinese Laundry label targets those in the 24 to 28 age range. The Kristin Cavallari designer line is for trendy millennials, whereas the CL by Laundry line is for a “more adult audience.”
According to Bob Goldman, Goldman’s father and overall company founder and CEO, what unifies these brands are their West Coast “casual cool” aesthetic, which the Chinese Laundry executive team attributes to its roots in Los Angeles, CA. As many brands are shifting out of dress footwear and getting into more casual styles, the Goldmans think that their rebranding efforts into both design and marketing can result into good business.
Today’s tech-savvy female consumers, for example, now check their phones 42 times a day and they shop online 60% of the time, according to a research conducted by Chinese Laundry. That said, one of the most pivotal strategies that the company wants to be aggressive on is stronger online communication through its website and various social media platforms like Instagram.
“In addition to making our website more user- and mobile-friendly, we’re adding a ton of lifestyle content [in it through] videos, look books and blog posts. Our teams will have more of a voice and personality. We like to have fun and we want our customers to see more of our playful side,” says Bob Goldman, adding that they’ve been working with fashion bloggers and online influencers lately to increase brand presence.
Apart from these, the Goldmans are also trying to implement brisker product deliveries and retail distribution, especially since they’re eyeing international expansion in five years’ time. This is particularly illustrated for Fall 2016, when new products and packaging will hit stores this coming November, together with Spring 2017 deliverables.
“We now have two stores in Las Vegas but we have aggressive expansion plans for international, as well as new locations in Los Angeles and on the East Coast,” says Stewart Goldman. “We’re going to test some pop-up models over the next couple of months. With mall traffic significantly down, we want to be nimble and move around quickly. There’s also the possibility of mobile vans and trucks that travel to music festivals—no idea is too crazy. If [our customer] is ready to shop, we want to be there to meet her needs—even in the middle of a desert.”
—Eugene Y. Santos