BOSTON — Imagine a half-dozen women ahead of you in the airport all wearing unflattering black leggings (washed out, stretched out, should-have-stayed in the gym etc.).
If you’re an apparel industry veteran, what would you do?
For Avra Myers, all those ill-fitting leggings were a call to action. Over a 30-year career, Myers has worked as senior vice president of merchandising for J. Jill, served as copresident of The Limited and spent more than 20 years developing and building Club Monaco under founder Joe Mimran.
Myers tapped a former J. Jill colleague, Jennifer Hudner, a veteran of Banana Republic and Harper’s Bazaar, to help her bring the project to fruition.
Six feverish months of designing, testing and sourcing later, Myers and Hudner have launched A Ruby, a 14-item collection of French-inspired basics (with lots of sleek, ponte di Roma leggings).
“I raided my closet for the pants I wore most, laid them out and thought about what kinds of tops do you want with leggings?” Myers said. “I wanted shape and definition, but something that would cover the rear.” She came up with core items she calls “quintessentials”: a pull-on ponte riding pant ($99), crisp white men’s wear shirt ($80), layering tank ($45), graphic tees ($35), and V-neck boyfriend sweater ($80). Many of her tops have curved, high-low hems.
“A yoga pant for work,” is how Myers likes to describe the offering — casual-luxe but not sloppy.
Everything retails for less than $100. Based on sales to date, Myers estimates A Ruby will do $850,000 in net sales, on $1 million in demand in its first 12 months.
“I remember at Club Monaco, we had a lot of action in that under-$100 price point,” she recalled. “I wanted to hit that again.” She believes it’s a price point that’s underserved for stylish basics.
“We wanted simple, elegant, easy,” said Hudner. “Things you would think would be hard to find, but often are at this price point.”
Myers has been able to hit the price by using factories from her Club Monaco days (some in her native Canada, some in China and Taiwan), plus selling direct through aruby.net. She has not pursued wholesale, although she’s not ruled it out either; the focus now is to use social mediaand public relations to build the brand online.
“The direct [sales] business has seen the growth in the past six to eight years,” she noted. She has used pop-up stores to gauge fit and connect with customers.
Bestsellers include the moto legging ($99), the riding legging ($99) and moto tank with vegan leather detailing ($60). Leggings come in skinny or “stovepipe,” which is a modified boot cut.
The sizing is 1 to 5, which allows Myers to reach from size zero to size 16/18 in an appealing way.
“No woman wants to buy something marked XL,” she said. “There is a huge stigma attached to XL and size 18, so I wanted women to feel comfortable buying any size.” Plus, Myers believes she has a significant opportunity for a brand that discreetly reaches beyond sizes 0 to 12.
The profit margin is around 60 percent. The average Web sale is two to three items, about $150. After successful pop-up stores in Toronto and Boston, she plans to hit Provincetown, Mass., this summer. For fall, she’ll expand legging styles and add affordable outerwear ($150). For holiday, she’s figured out how to do a “pull-on pleated pant to be paired with a jacket for a tux look.”
After years of working by committee at large companies — she recalled catalogue planning sessions where 30 people had to approve each page — Myers said she relishes the stimulation and pace of a start-up.
“What I learned from Joe [Mimran],” she said, “is a good merchant is someone who can make quick, smart decisions.”