Nic + Zoe Shows Off a New Attitude for Spring

Women's Wear Daily
By Rosemary Feitelberg

In the eight years since launching Nic + Zoe, a knitwear label named after her children, creative director Dorian Lightbown has set up a network of 950 specialty doors without much fanfare — until now.

A bevy of February fashion magazines are just out with Mario Sorrenti’s first Nic + Zoe ad campaign featuring Arizona Muse, and the photographer has already agreed to shoot next season, too. That, along with an e-commerce site that bows Monday, are part of the Natick, Mass.-based company’s new branding strategy that the Lipman agency has been putting into play.

More than nine months into her new role as chief executive officer of Nic + Zoe, Susie Mulder is extending the collection and its pricing to try to broaden appeal. An Essentials group of solids that layers in with the core novelty knitwear has helped bolster spring sales by a high double-digit increase, she said. The company is investing upward of $1 million for its media buy and digital upgrade, Mulder said. The new Web site has more of a lifestyle feel with such features as “Dorian’s Inspirations” (which at the moment is London’s East End) and “Zoe Loves” (a crewneck knit and woven long-sleeve top). Zoe Lightbown is more than a Web presence; she has a full-time job at the company and instinctively offers a more youthful perspective.

Even more powerful are Sorrenti’s strong shots of Muse, which are running in such magazines as Harper’s Bazaar, Lucky and Vanity Fair. They can also be found on Nic + Zoe’s Web site, as well as other sites. While the brand’s tank, an item that wholesales for $22 and is offered in six colors, remains a top seller, pricier styles like a $158 knit lace dress have been folded into the collection.

Mulder, who previously worked as a senior partner at McKinsey & Co. where she was a leader in the Global Retail and Consumer Goods practice, has ramped up the spring collection by 15 percent and the fall 2013 one by 40 percent. “We’ve added more halo products but we are staying true to our core consumer,” she said. (Scarves will debut for holiday, additional accessories and home may follow.)

With that in place, Nic + Zoe will soon be turning to global expansion. “We haven’t begun to tap into international markets although we have had interest from Asia, Australia and New Zealand,” she said.

Having championed the brand’s new strategy, David Lipman, founder of the New York agency that bears his name, said, “The one thing for sure that we believe in is branding a voice and staying very confident with the voice we created.”