In her ninth year of business, designer Geren Lockhart is realizing that there's more to life than fashion. In the rapidly speeding media age, where designers must navigate Tumblr, Facebook and Twitter when they're not negotiating with factories and picking fabric swatches, Lockhart is constantly generating ideas for her contemporary brand Geren Ford that go beyond hemlines and color palettes. There's her favorite furniture store in Palm Springs, the collection of wooden bowls she buys from an artisan at the farmer's market and her lovable dog Quinn, to name a few.
"We do a lot of things here that are fun and have to do with your life and not just clothes," she said. In other words, she explained, "We create content. We just don't create clothes. Intellectual property isn't just about clothes. It's about a brand."
To share all the content that represents her brand, whose annual wholesale sales total less than $10 million, Lockhart is relaunching her Web site on Monday. It's the second revamp in the company's history. The big difference between now and the last time she redid the site was the boom in social media.
To capitalize on social media's status, the new site links to Geren Ford's blog and Facebook and Twitter pages. A Tumblr section, dubbed "Genius!" after Lockhart's catchphrase for things she loves, has photos of colorful beaded necklaces and modular food packaging that caught her eye. The site also features an archive of past collections and a page for press clippings from L'Officiel, British Vogue and other publications. E-commerce brings in sales as the company modifies its wholesale distribution. Quinn, who's become the company's mascot, even gets her own section titled "Surprise."
The Web site makes its debut two weeks after Lockhart moved from downtown Los Angeles into a 3,500-square-foot space in Hollywood that will double as a new studio and showroom for her five employees. It'll also house her first store, called Annex, as well as a gallery. Located on Seward Street, not too far from the urban outposts for beach-inspired brands Free City and James Perse, the new headquarters help Geren Ford not only reshape its image but also be closer to key customers.
"We didn't want to be downtown just because we were in fashion," Lockhart said. "We really want to be doing more than fashion. It gives us a chance to live with the people who helped build the brand...It's about our vast array of VIP customers, the people we're inspired by, and we don't get to interact with them because we're in downtown."
Having a building of her own also will give her the opportunity to sell items that aren't related to fashion. Moreover, she's planning to host a pop-up shop for Hedge, her favorite furniture store in Palm Springs, and build a kitchen where a chef can whip up food for dinner parties.
Lockhart also will test ways to build her brand. After concluding a four-year collaboration with Urban Outfitters to sell a lower-priced line called Hawks, she's prepping for the debut of GF by Geren Ford on QVC next February.
In the meantime, her first extension out of clothing and shoes is interior decor. In November, she'll start selling a $225 striped knit blanket on her Web site.
"That's a very good example of how I really wanted to do that but I never had a place for it," Lockhart said. "It's an extension of the life."