THE DIRECT 60 | 2023

Top Executives Mastering Brand-To-Consumer

Presented In Partnership With

The Direct 60 are Brand Leaders at the Forefront of the Direct-to-Consumer Pivot.

Hailing from incumbent (traditionally wholesale) enterprise brands, these calculated risk takers and new adopters are retooling their company infrastructure for this new world where every brand is a direct-to-consumer brand. These leaders continue to embrace technology, innovation, and next-gen strategies to transform their businesses & industry.

Executives on the Direct 60 List are selected for their ability to make a meaningful, material, and long-lasting contribution to a brand’s revenue growth from D2C channels. They are deploying a combination of initiatives to meet the brand D2C growth objectives including — strategic investments in baseline technology and/or point solutions; advancing the brand’s relevance and appeal with existing and new customer segments; developing new products, categories, sub-brands, or service offerings (such as resale) to keep up with changing customer expectations or needs; spotting and mastering innovation trends; creating delightful, unique and optimized customer experiences; changing the brand’s internal culture to be more agile, customer(not product)-centric, and data-driven.

The Future of Brand-To-Consumer

The Direct 60 list is one of three lists that Lead releases every year that highlights the future of brand-to-consumer. The Lead also publishes The Foremost 50 list of digital-native brands and The Leading 100 list of technology start-ups. Together these lists represent direct-to-consumer innovation in fashion, beauty and consumer industries. The Lead brings together these innovators at The Lead Summit, our annual flagship event. Check out the list below to see if you spot any of our 2023 Summit speakers!

The Direct 60 Insights Report Presentation & Awards Ceremony will be held at The Direct 60 Forum on October 19th, 2023. For more information and to apply to attend, click HERE.

"Success is utilizing all channels to lift each other. If you’re just looking at the P&L of ecom, physical stores or wholesale in an individual vacuum, you’re looking at it wrong. You should, of course, look at what’s driving your business but to think that your physical stores aren’t fueling your ecomm traffic/sales, or even your wholesaler retail business (or vice versa), is a huge miss. Success is all about finding profitably and that could mean one of those channels is breaking even or a loss leader, but blended, they’re driving healthy revenue and profits."
"I don't think it's possible for marketers specifically in the D2C space to solve some of these problems on their own. You are dependent on creating a shared vision with your partners in merchandising, finance, IT, and elsewhere to win with the consumer. It's a new model of alliance and reliance on key cross-functional business areas to bring winning strategies to life. Effective marketing is dependent on partnership."
"We’re witnessing the democratization of influence. The fluidity of the algorithm on platforms like TikTok has created space for anybody to have influence and the chance for all voices to be amplified. Going viral no longer requires a massive following and this evolved model has flipped the script on who can become a creator. As we enter a new digital era, we’ll see less reliance on influencers with enormous audiences and more value placed on the impact of fostering authentic bonds and creating true brand advocates from the ground up.”
"The future of direct-to-consumer engagement is evolving rapidly. Fostering authentic connections, leveraging data-driven insights, and embracing emerging technologies to provide elevated, personalized, and immersive experiences is the key. At Cos Bar, we're committed to staying at the forefront of this evolution, ensuring that every interaction with our clients is not just a transaction...but a meaningful, long-lasting relationship."
"We know that Gen Z and Gen Alpha are resale natives, and they are looking for items that will stand the test of time. Every season Kate Spade makes iconic, joyful statement pieces for our community of brand fans. That sense of joy is timeless. We feel proud that whether you buy a new item from us now, or a pre-loved one from five years earlier, that product will still look gorgeous and chic.”
"Embracing change is at the core of successful business transformation. The true power of change lies not just in the grand strategy, but in the art of harmonizing technology, consumer insights, and operational finesse to create a consumer-centric organization that is data-driven and agile. As the saying goes, 'What gets measured gets managed.' This cultural shift can only happen with using data to understand your consumers, measure your progress, and make informed decisions."
"As retail continues to evolve, I believe there’s a ripe opportunity to take the core building blocks of a D2C strategy and apply it to an omnichannel retail approach. Success is building a growth loop that creates a consumer experience flywheel that marries the product experience (physical goods, customer service and digital technology) with marketing holistically from acquisition through the full lifecycle to drive loyalty. The concept of cohort-based lifecycle marketing that is core to D2C has wide-reaching applications across retail, and I’m excited to see this mentality expand and scale."
"I am excited about sustainable growth that does not compromise the brand’s integrity, quality, and customer experience. As the DTC and brand leader of a heritage and iconic brand, a key indicator will always be customers’reach, trust and engagement. We have been focused on uplifting women, every version of them, for 45 years. Their loyalty, repeat purchase rate and advocacy are at the heart of Hanky Panky’s profitability. A true customer-committed brand, team, and experience."
"We want D2C to be a much higher percentage of the total company business. To have that direct connection with the customer is just very valuable. And the company has really started to see the value in that over the past couple of years. So the next few years are just about building."
"In retelling the story of the brand's heritage, you have to do it in a way that is relevant and appeals to the current generation. It should not sound old and royal and stuffy when you are emphasizing luxury and craftsmanship. We are being very intentional when we say we are unapologetically dressed up since 1938. We are taking ownership of tailored clothing and doing it in a way that is emboldening and authentic."
"I love driving huge growth and in recent roles, being responsible for more than half of the revenue that comes into a company. Going from a large brand to a smaller one is exciting because you can roll up your sleeves and really dig into the details. You can truly identify opportunities and make a big difference."
"The way that we can change people's lives and the way that we can change how people feel about themselves every day is truly profound. And, it's with that passion that I love my colleagues and my partners in the industry because they really bring it every day"
"Luxury is not a price tag, luxury is a feeling, an emotion. Luxury is the incredible joy a person, a memory, an experience, an object can bring into your life, for a moment or lasting a lifetime."
"We have deployed an enterprise first-party data strategy in the last few years. So enhancing our understanding of the customer is job number one for us. And delivering a retail operating ecosystem that delivers world-class customer experience built on top of data is next. We are building a world-class tech stack and set of partnerships to be able to deliver on that objective."
"Make sure whatever you're doing is authentic. And to do so, surround yourself with people who can tell you whether you are being authentic or not. Most likely, the first people are gonna be your own employees. Many people within your company are probably Hispanic or come from Hispanic heritage. I've found they're more than happy, willing, and very proud to be involved in providing you with feedback. So allow them to speak and give them a voice."
"Cultivating innovation, embracing early access opportunities, and leveraging our scale, tech expertise, and industry connections are key drivers of our global brand growth strategy. We pioneer new formats, staying ahead on platforms like Meta and TikTok to captivate audiences and lead the market."
"The most successful DTC businesses have an engaged customer base that offers multiple advantages for a business, including sharing honest feedback that feeds directly into the strategic roadmap, organically evangelizing the brand to friends and family, and providing predictable recurring revenue"
"I love the outdoor industry. It's also what I love to do outside of work. But I found one of the biggest barriers is that it's a really exclusive industry. For people that want to get outdoors, the product's usually expensive and getting to mountains or the waves for city dwellers is hard. What attracted me to Herschel is that it is really inclusive but at the same time appealed to my passion for the outdoors."
"Our mission is to build great brands by way of being the world’s most creative brand accelerator. We teach and support our licensees to become drop ship proficient, so they maximize their sales by being everywhere consumers want them to be, all while we partner with strategic retailers to ensure our brands’ look and feel translates across the marketplace."
"We have seen tremendous growth in D2C and I am excited about the continued potential of the channel. But what I'm most excited about is the potential intelligence and information that we get from dealing directly with consumers. I can't stress enough how valuable that insight is for the future of the overall business."
"Our DTC business is an engine of growth. Data enabled by DTC, coupled with marketing automation, allows us to drive personalization at scale, providing our consumers with the right products and messages at the right time."
"Sometimes large organizations build Analytics Decision Ecosystems to last. And my message is when we are building a system, we need to build to adapt. In the last two-three years, we have gone through a huge pandemic. The consumer preferences have changed. And we are very glad that we have built our data and analytics system to adapt because we could add new data sources and reuse them. We were able to start the new consumer preference, the new channels they want to go to and shop, and we made a lot of difference."
"To me, success in the direct-to-consumer space is a combination of building robust brand loyalty through genuine, personalized interactions and achieving substantial growth through our DTC channels. It means creating a devoted community of clients and brand friends, who not only love our products but also trust our label, all while driving profitable sales and ROI-moments- directly through both our online/offline channels and interactions."
"I am especially excited about the resurgence of experiential beauty stores in the cosmetics industry! These stores will deliver immersive consumer journeys, featuring personalized makeup consultations and interactive product demos. They will be further elevated by the integration of AI-powered skincare analysis tools, promising to enhance the in-store shopping experience by bringing personalized product recommendations based on individual skin needs. Additionally, there's a growing commitment to sustainability and eco-conscious initiatives, aligning with our consumers' increasing preference for environmentally friendly options"
"When I got into this business, the way that marketing worked was whoever spent the most money won. Over time that shifted - the brands that were really winning were brands that had the biggest file. But what's happening now is whoever is making the most authentic, most engaging content is who's winning with consumers. This is really hard to do. And it requires an agile data-driven approach."
"In order to bring something to life in the most authentic, meaningful way for your brand and for your customers you need to truly do it in a 360 way. And the reality is the way that most large organizations are not set up for it. In order to innovate you have to bring all teams together, even if it is a bit out of the comfort zones of a lot of individuals. But ultimately I think as long as you coalesce everybody around one goal, it becomes a much simpler thing to do."
"For the next two years, True Religion will focus on growing eCommerce to be 50% of our business while maintaining a strong EBITDA and investing in customer loyalty to an even greater degree. We plan to keep our customers at the center of all decisions, including product assortment, pricing and evolving the end-to-end customer lifecycle as well as our True Fam Loyalty program in new and exciting ways."
"Currently, what's generating the most excitement for me is our utilization of AI methodologies to enhance operational efficiency. Through daily engagement in AI processes, we are achieving a level of automation that liberates from mundane responsibilities and fosters creativity and strategic thinking. This is exceedingly beneficial."
"I think of us as the stewards of our brands’ IP. Our success is directly based on customers wanting our brands & products. We are creating demand through upper & mid funnel marketing, collecting data where we can, and using this information to grow relationships with customers & retailers. Ultimately, it's about continuing to evolve our brands to stand out in an environment where customers have no shortage of options."
"Everything we do at Delvaux is discreet and personal.We don’t advertise. We don’t shout. Most importantly, we don’t sell. We are in the business of investment. We invest in our clients by creating memorable and intimate experiences. Like our bags, these experiences are thoughtful, authentic -- often tailor-made. We view each interaction as an opportunity to build a meaningful long-term relationship. At Delvaux, that is our version of ROI: we grow together."
"Sucess at D2C is about creating a true connection with your consumer, where brand loyalty is at the nucleus of your relationship. I am excited at the prospect of creating a truly personalized connected experience based on brand loyalty. Where our consumers feel heard and the quality of our products reflects that connection and respect."
"Our main priority at Kendra Scott is driving traffic across all of our channels. My BrandX team (creative, marketing, ecomm etc) is focused on big brand ideas that we execute in our full funnel marketing plan to connect with our consumer to drive traffic. We always prioritize connecting with our consumer and putting her first. As we build a purpose driven brand, focusing on developing an emotional connection is the first step and after that loyalty will come!"
"I think that you could be provocative and not be political, as long as you are being authentic to who you are. We are a brand that's been rooted in time - how we look at and speak about time. So it's part of our core value system to have a point of view on how post-covid consumers value time differently. I think my job as a steward of the brand's values is to bring everything that we're talking about that's culturally relevant and provocative back to the core of our business."
"We have made a number of investments in recent years in our marketing strategy including adding in media mix modeling, getting more nimble with our customer data, testing promotional strategies, and a new loyalty program. I am excited to see it all come together and our efforts continue to pay off."
"The most challenging part of implementing a data-driven business model within any organization is the short-term change management. You have to make sure you don't impact what someone needs to do keep the lights on and that you don't so overwhelm them with change that they can't put it into practice. Plus if you're just giving someone the same thing they already have but better and faster, they're not gonna care. The huge win is if you could give them actionable insights that they didn't have before."
"Over the last 5 years, each year has felt wildly different than the last, which has been both exciting and challenging. I’m eager to see what these next few years bring to the DTC space. Whether it be the crazy advances in AI, combatting the cookie-less world or the ever-changing landscape of Meta, we continue to have our work cut out for us and I’m excited to tackle it all alongside the wider DTC community"
"As the pioneers of the One for One giving model, we reimagined a new way of doing business. I’m excited that we have seen countless other businesses build impact into their model. I believe corporations play a key role in building more equity in the world. We have evolved our strategy to now invest a third of our profits into global organizations focused on providing access to mental health resources. I’m hopeful that our innovation will again encourage others to take a look at their purpose, impact and values and make sure they are doing the most good they can with the resources they have."
"We feel that in the long term, it's not enough to be net-zero. We need to give back to the planet what we take out. So the next big thing for us is to develop a product that is not just from recycled material, but it is actually recyclable or even better compostable. So it doesn't have to end up in a landfill, but actually can go back into the soil and maybe fertilize the next crop​."
"Utilizing our back-end expertise and digital platform at Centric while adding the secret sauce of dynamic founders in Erin and Sara Foster and the incredible IP of Favorite Daughter has been the perfect recipe to quickly scale a new business."
"We recently launched UA Rewards, our loyalty program for U.S. consumers, so a huge focus for us is establishing fundamentals for our loyalty experiences and personalization. We will focus on delivering a program that will allow Under Armour to scale, grow and to keep pace with the ever-evolving consumer and digital landscape"
"What really gets me excited about the future of our industry is the blend of innovation and inspiring talent. It's invigorating to see the industry constantly evolve and draw inspiration from the next generation of leaders."
"I think loyalty in the context of D2C is really interesting - it's not necessarily the loyalty programs that are gonna get customers to shop with you on your website. It's by consistently giving them something that they can't get elsewhere. It's about the experience and the engagement with the brand that customers will never be able to get at a wholesale account."
"We're really focused on bringing all brands onto single platforms and building omnichannel capabilities. It's what I did at Loft a few years ago and it was a huge organizational change. Because you're completely turning on your head how you're looking at inventory, pricing, and promotion strategy. It's about how are you buying the inventory and where are you allocating the inventory. It just completely changes everything."
"The way I foresee AI being most beneficial for brands is when we take the best of the talent, creativity, and experience of the organization's organic intelligence and use AI to then scale and magnify it. You can use AI to scale the ability of your most charismatic and knowledgeable store associate, your most creative designer, or your most talented visual artist. Consumer appetite for information, imagery, and content is only going to increase. AI can help to fulfill this ever-growing demand for content."
"I am focused on enhancing the jewelry ownership experience with our suite of services. My team is innovating; making our services easier to understand and enabling more of our services online to complement our merchandise. The jewelry business has traditionally been an in-person sales model. Now and into the future, the consumer wants to engage in services in their own way – that can be in-store, online or with a live person chat online."
"The coolest part of D2C is you don't know what the next exciting thing is going to be yet. For me, when it comes to D2C, it's often so much more about simplifying than it is about adding and I love bringing together teams that haven’t historically worked closely to serve the consumer in a different way"
"For a long time, VINCE was wholesale driven, and then frankly, COVID forced us to think differently. Since then, we have brought on new technologies, enabling us to move to DTC in a much stronger and effective way. The data received (from these technologies) has provided invaluable insights on our customers, allowing us to learn who they are, how frequently they shop, what their buying patterns are and what influences their purchases."
"At New Balance, we operate with a consumer-led and data-driven mindset, where everything we do is grounded in our brand’s purpose and core values. We’ve made significant investments to transform our digital capabilities, innovate our retail operations and secure partnerships with athletes and ambassadors whose values align with ours. Our ability to attract younger consumers is resulting in significant growth for our business."

View & Download the Full List