Co-founders Anika Brown and Sarah Sanchez Are Making Shoppers Trendsetters
WWW — Each season a designer bag is crowned the “it” bag of the moment and it’s not uncommon for fashion enthusiasts to scurry to get the latest designer confection to add to their accessory arsenal. But a new site called Lamarca (pronounced la marca), is changing the way we shop for handbags. Lamarca unites designers and shoppers. Co-founders Anika Brown and Sarah Sanchez, who met as MBA students at the University of Virginia, launched the online boutique in September 2013 with a mission to create a shopping platform that empowers and gains exposure for emerging designers while uniting designers with potential customers.
The inspiration for Lamarca, which means “the brand or “the mark” in Spanish, came when Sanchez met designer Maria Murillo while interning in Columbia. Murillo had a design portfolio that read like a Who’s Who in fashion including Oscar de la Renta and Catherine Maladrino. Sanchez fell in love with Murillo’s handbags, but despite her award-winning designs, Murillo had difficulty launching her own brand, hampered by costs and limited marketing reach for independent designers. Sanchez who had become aware of crowdfunding as an alternate way to finance businesses, texted Brown to inquire about whether crowdfunding would be viable for handbags. Brown replied, “Yes. Let’s do it.” and the idea for Lamarca was born.
Sanchez, a trained dancer, could relate as she resisted her passion for the arts in favor of what seemed to be a more practical career path. Brown, a once aspiring designer, could relate too. “I could easily identify with Maria’s struggles,” Brown says. “In undergrad, I studied fashion at Academy of Art University. I had every intention of becoming a designer, but I became disillusioned when it became clear the real power came from people sitting in the boardroom not at the drafting table.”
The concept behind Lamarca is an inventive and savvy way to meld fashion and technology. This is how it works: A campaign is created for featured designers, who are carefully curated by the co-founders. It is a fully crowdfunded process where shoppers can peruse the website and select an item they would like to purchase. When shoppers find an item they would like to purchase, they click “Make it Mine” and complete the purchase as they would with any other online shopping vendor. The difference is, they only receive the item if it meets a required threshold of backers. Lamarca purchases items from a designer once the threshold of backers is made. Shoppers attempting to buy an item are considered “backers.” Once items have been back by at least three buyers, they are available for traditional purchase – essentially making shoppers trendsetters.
I recently caught up with Brown and Sanchez to get more intel about their startup and how they see it revolutionizing the way we discover new designers and how we shop:
Why should Lamarca be on our radar?
- Unique, high quality products: Is there anything better than having someone stop and ask “Where’d you get that?” We appreciate the major brands as much as the next gal, but it’s thrilling to own something very few people have even seen.
- Support emerging talent: You know the feeling you get when you discover a new independent musician? LAMARCA is built around creating that same excitement around fashion design.
Why crowdsourcing as a financial model?
We chose crowdsourcing because it eliminates the biggest and costliest challenges facing designers – high manufacturing expenses, and excess inventory. Traditionally, materials are purchased 18 months before reaching consumers; finished goods, six months prior. All of this is based on estimates of what the demand for the product will be.
What about shoppers who want their product immediately?
Thanks to brands such as Gustin Jeans and Betabrands, more and more shoppers have gotten used to the idea of waiting a little bit for unique, high quality products. But, this is a fairly new concept for most people. For those people, we say that our business model allows us to cut costs on these premium products and pass the savings onto our shoppers – this savings will increase as LAMARCA grows. We also remind people that the best way to ensure they receive an item they love ASAP is to share it. Tell your friends about it to help the product reach its threshold. We give a 15% referral discount on both your order and your friends order so it’s a win-win.
How do you select the designers featured?
Aside from having an aesthetic that gets us excited, we select designers that have worked for a top label (Maggie Copeland of Palethorp designed for L.A.M.B. for example), won major awards or attended one of the top design schools.
How long will items be available to accept backers?
Items will be available for 30 days.
If you were Chic Spy Agents, what would be your code names?
Anika Brown: Faux Pas
Sarah Sanchez: Petticoat
Brown and Sanchez tips for selecting a handbag:
- Size matters: Proportion is everything. If you’re petite, opt for small to medium-sized bags in lieu of oversized ones. If you’re tall, avoid petite purses.
- So does color: If you’re looking for a bag to blend with your outfit, black and brown are obvious neutrals, but shades of white and metallics work well too and are often more interesting. If you want to spice up a dull or casual outfit, go with bold shades.
- Quality: We put our bags through a lot. Make sure the next bag you get is up to the job by checking for sturdy seams, reinforced handles, strong zippers and a nice lining.