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I have a lot of stuff. So much stuff, in fact, that it doesn’t all fit in the three closets in my apartment. Instead, it overflows into my parents’ basement and my sister’s drawers and even into a storage unit somewhere in Brooklyn. It’s not because I’m a hoarder or unable to resist a good sale; it’s because I really enjoy nice things. I used to think nice, high-quality items exclusively meant name-brand or luxury designer; there’s no way I could get the same high-grade from a fast-fashion or direct-to-consumer store, right?
Enter: Italic, a new sort of retail concept that — and, not to sound like a cliche — removes the middle man. Truly. Instead of linking a manufacturer to a brand like most DTC business models, the membership-based service skips the branding all together and sells items at cost. Sure, from a consumer standpoint, it’s technically its own brand, but that’s the beauty: You’re just buying the product, not the marketing.
It’s technically its own brand, but that’s the beauty: You’re just buying the product, not the marketing.
Italic Luxury Goods: What It Is
Launched in 2018 by Founder Jeremy Cai, Italic sells everything from a boxy women’s cashmere sweater that’s made by the same manufacturer as French labels Sandro and Maje ($75) ; bed sheets that seem eerily similar the ones luxury hotels stock ($85); cookware that’s comparable to Calphalon ($125); and even unassuming low-top sneakers that are handcrafted from full-grain Italian Napa calf leather in Portugal ($75). The sneakers, which come in both men’s and women’s sizes, are reminiscent of cult-favorite Common Projects, which sell for $415. You’ll probably notice that the sweater feels just as cozy as the one you paid quadruple the price for a few years back, and though the four-piece cookware set is the price of a competitor’s Dutch oven, it feels substantial and looks good in any kitchen.
The only difference, of course, is the lack of a flashy label — and the price.
How It Works
According to its site, Italic doesn’t make a profit on products. Rather, it produces revenue from its subscription model. The membership costs $120, billed annually, but most customers break even on their first purchase. Because the customer is already paying for the product at-cost, there are no discounts or promo codes to search for.
From the consumer’s POV, it works exactly the same as any other retailer: You browse products online, put them in your cart, and purchase them as you would any other item. The only difference is that the label says “Made For Italic.” It’s almost like buying a brand that you’re already familiar with.
The site also breaks down its cost model: Its new Audrey Embossed Lizard Satchel costs an Italic member $195 — a perfectly reasonable price for a mid-sized crossbody bag with lizard-embossed calfskin leather and lambskin lining. The wear-anywhere colorways (black, periwinkle, and saddle, a rich burnt sienna) pair beautifully with the sophisticated gold hardware for a look that’s both timeless and modern. In fact, one reviewer calls it the best bag she’s ever purchased. It’s made in the same factory that produces handbags for Fendi, which usually cost upwards of $3,000, and the site includes a comparison to bridge label Senreve, which costs closer to $700.
Cai, who has a background in both manufacturing and tech, told Business Insider earlier this year that the biggest hurdle to the business was convincing manufacturers that produce legacy labels like Prada and Givenchy to produce products for him. “Many were already looking for a way to sell directly to consumers but without the enormous overhead of building a brand,” he said at the time, confirming that it was high time to disrupt the industry’s status quo.
Why It Works
Because Italic uses the same manufacturers as luxury labels, the quality will be competitive, but the name brand will be null. Sure, that means resale value will plummet, but that doesn’t matter if you want to hold onto it for years to come.
It’s a fantastic option for the no-frills consumer who just wants their stuff to work — and last: Because Italic uses the same manufacturers as luxury labels, the quality will be competitive, but the name brand will be null. Sure, that means resale value will plummet, but that doesn’t matter if you want to hold onto it for years to come.
The Percale Cotton Sheet Set, for example, is lightweight, breathable, and reminiscent of the sheets you’d sleep on during a luxury hotel stay. They’re crisp enough to keep you cool when it’s warm out, but don’t stop short of lending a cozy-as-heck vibe. (Michaela Babuskova, the influencer behind @figtny, loves the Cotton Sateen iteration.) Even better: They wash well.
The Boxy Cropped Cashmere Sweater looks like a great fall staple, but once it arrives, that’s when you fall in love: Not only is it one of the softest items I’ve ever felt (my four-year-old nephew asked why I couldn’t wear it three days in a row), but it has almost 50 five-star reviews, all complimenting its cropped fit, super-soft feel, and impeccable quality. Like most things on Italic’s site, it’s one of those items you simultaneously want to tell all your friends about but also want to keep a secret so nothing’s ever sold out.
Now more than ever, it’s important to purchase fewer items that’ll hold up well over time. If you’re not one to fuss over labels, Italic’s $120 membership — and its high-quality, brandless pieces — will be well worth the money.
5 More Reasons To Love Italic:
- Italic offers more than 1000 top-quality products that fit a multitude of styles.
- Italic is perfect for someone who wants the quality of a luxury product but doesn’t want to pay for the brand name.
- Founder Jeremy Cai and his team spent years sourcing and partnering with the best manufacturers in the world and developing a premium product assortment.
- Italic eschews the traditional retail markup model: Instead of making money by selling products, it only makes money on the membership itself.
- The membership often pays for itself after the first purchase: Members save 64% compared to leading modern brands and an average of $800/year, and 93% of new members break even on their first order.