It all started with a vintage white Ferrari.
In 2017, the Montreal-based fashion retailer Ssense partnered with Arthur Kar, a Parisian dealer of rare and vintage autos, on a line of Ferrari-emblazoned cotton T-shirts. The most buzz-worthy item in the collection was a $200,000 restored 1978 Ferrari 308 GTB in white with jet black leather seats.
The collaboration continued Ssense’s longstanding practice of mixing luxury with streetwear, art and industrial design. On its website, you can find splurge-y clothes such as Gucci mohair slacks sold next to everyday casual buys like Nike swoosh sneakers. Installations at its Montreal showroom, like a 2018 recreation of Off-White founder Virgil Abloh’s office space, often look at how fashion extends beyond the runway. Its 2019 debut of pet accessories (including a black and gold Versace bathrobe that chicly cinched around a pampered pooch’s waist) tested the theory that designer devotees want to surround themselves with a brand’s aesthetic.
Years of these experiments helped the Ssense team realize the power of pairing stylish attire with unique and unexpected objects. In December, the company debuted Everything Else, a permanent online home for all the things its customers might crave beyond clothes. “We style men’s wear for women. We offer both emerging and established designers. Why not break down all the traditional barriers between all the other product categories,” says Krishna Nikhil, the company’s chief merchandising officer.
For Ssense, the timing of Everything Else couldn’t be better. According to Nikhil, 74 per cent of its customers are under 35. Even before the pandemic, that demographic was more likely to work from home, shop online and be interested in buying new decor. The trend has only accelerated over the past year so it’s not surprising that fashion e-tailers who once focused on designer fashion are amping up their lifestyle offerings.
“People are spending more time at home, focusing on their surroundings,” says Lauren Santo Domingo, the co-founder and chief brand officer of Moda Operandi, an e-clothier that also offers home goods including its own line, Moda Domus. To Santo Domingo, working decor into Moda’s fashion offering feels completely natural. “For anyone who truly cares about aesthetics, the home is usually the first target,” she says.
Fashion houses often branch out into home decor, bringing their finesse with materials and craftsmanship to living spaces. Designer brands including Hermès, Louis Vuitton, Gucci and Fendi all translate the spirit of their fashion collections into furniture and housewares. But just as few people have a closet dominated by a single label, no one lives in a home filled with the work of a single furniture manufacturer. Retailers such as Ssense and Moda Operandi help their customers curate spaces that communicate their culture and design savvy.
Since 2018, London-based Matchesfashion has offered home decor in addition to designer apparel and accessories. “We have noticed our customers engage with our homeware in the same way that they do with fashion,” says Chelsea Power, its senior buyer. “They are buying from a wide range of designers and it is great to see some of our existing ready-to-wear designers approach homeware with their own unique DNA.” Matches collaborates directly with fashion labels to create exclusive pieces such as dress designer Emilia Wickstead’s table linens inspired by interior decorating powerhouse Dorothy Draper or a collection of colourful geometric rugs and blankets from Colville, a line co-founded by former British Vogue editor Lucinda Chambers.
For Ssense, Everything Else is a direct reflection of the company’s fashion sense. The offerings are international with a Canadian twist. Mod trumblers by London star Tom Dixon appear with sculptural light fixtures from Montreal’s Lambert + Fils. Los Angeles skincare company Lesse sits side-by-side with Toronto soap company Binu Binu, whose exfoliating bars are inspired by Korean bathing rituals. As is often the case with its fashion pieces, Ssense’s bestselling lifestyle products are idiosyncratic items like a brutalist Anza espresso machine made of concrete. “We’re lucky because whenever we take risks with our merchandise, we feel our customers take risks right alongside us,” says Nikhil.