Gilt Group, Rue La La, Haute Look…there’s clearly no shortage of members-only shopping sites. Unlike the aforementioned online destinations, however, VonRosen is an invitation-only site that does not sell discount wears from a variety of designers, but rather, high-quality wears from their namesake Berlin-based luxury fashion label. This makes them the world’s only luxury retailer sold exclusively online.
The VonRosen line encompasses shirts, jumpers, cardigans, blouses, dresses, and accessories, which include handbags, belts, and wallets. When you order a piece from the website, it comes personally engraved with your initials on a discreetly placed oval signet.
TFS spoke to VonRosen founder David Von Rosen about this unique concept, possible backlash, and more.
Q: What do you consider to be classic, high-quality basic must-haves?
A: I consider classic, quality basic must-haves to be flexible, timeless, high-end pieces which you can dress up or down for a day at the office, a night out or a stroll on the beach. They are pieces everybody needs, like our perfectly cut cotton blouse for women, or our cashmere cardigan for men. When talking about essentials, one should keep in mind that there are huge differences. I would always opt for the highest quality available. We mostly produce in Italy. Especially when it comes to knitwear, there is no way around the Italians. Great basics to me always have something distinctive about them, something special, like a great detail. The VonRosen look, is very architectural, and the collection was inspired by Bauhaus.
Q: What made you opt for an invitation-only online shopping format?
A: I simply transferred the concept of clubs and bars to fashion. If I run my own fashion brand, I want to know who is wearing my styles. Also, we have been seeing an inflationary use of the terms "luxury" and "exclusivity". I wanted to bring back true luxury and real exclusivity to the world of fashion, with both terms understood literally. So I asked myself: why should a luxury brand not be able to demand greatness of its customers, just as the customer has every right to demand the same from a brand that calls itself "luxurious" and "exclusive"?
A brand’s customers are its greatest advocates. So we wish to chose the right ones. We are striving for diversity in our customer base. And I think you cannot achieve that if the price is the only hurdle. I am convinced that there are many people out there who don’t want to carry a handbag from a luxury brand that you see on any corner on almost anybody.
Q: Does everyone who asks to become a member, eventually become a member? If not, how is membership determined?
A: Just like any club or bar, we cannot admit everybody interested. There is no standard procedure, no right or wrong answer. We ask applicants to tell us about them, which could be anything of interest. We have people telling us about their professional background, their tastes, their preferred style, or their achievements. Some do it in writing, others paint, or send pictures in. It all comes down to the question as to whether VonRosen is a good fit for the applicant. We are very happy about every inquiry we receive, and take every request seriously. All applicants are treated with utmost respect and receive personal attention. Once inside, we offer superior service to our customers, who are always welcome to contact me personally for any questions. Our repurchase rate is amazing, and shows that our customers appreciate the great effort that goes into our products.
Q: Were you worried that this strategy would put off some shoppers, especially in this economy?
A; The concept of exclusivity literally states that it is not for everybody. But then, in fashion, there are always different tastes. We certainly lose some customers due to our exclusive high-end approach, but VonRosen does not want to be for everybody. To me, the concept fits our modern times. It is about individuality.
Q: How would you describe the VonRosen shopper?
A: Fashion-conscious, cosmopolitan, individualistic, open-minded, intellectual, opinion-leading, successful and design-loving. She/he likes clean cuts, has a sense of style, prefers timelessness to short-lived trends, and has an eye for great quality.
Q: You’ve gotten a lot of attention for some of your provocative images/tag lines. How do those tie-into your overall company message?
A: Our message is that we bring back true exclusivity to fashion with highest-quality products. With our approach, we are doing almost everything different. There are no shops – VonRosen is only available online at vonrosen.com
. Also, we don’t do sales or discounts. We focus on unique, high-quality essentials – not on short-lived trends. We do not produce for the masses, but prefer to get to know our customers and then individualize the pieces with a monogram. So our image fits into our company message: we like to challenge the established industry with new ideas, and return to individual exclusivity.
Q: What are the Spring/Summer must-haves for men and women?
A: For men, definitely the cotton cashmere blend knitted vest, a summer version of the cardigan, which works perfectly over a tee or a shirt.
And for women, the cotton voile blouse, which is a light weight, cool fabric perfect for summer in the city or the beach. Both, among others, will be online soon.
Q: What is the difference in the way Berlin men/women dress vs. NYC?
A: People in Berlin dress much more casually, even when going out. Berliners are more "personal style minded" than "trend minded". In this way, Berlin is much more Brooklyn than Manhattan.