Monograme is an online fashion brand that provides luxury apparel basics at a low price. Based in Brazil, its super-lean supply chain cuts out cost-incurring factors like brand markups, import taxes and middlemen to offer the best possible product at the best possible price.
The concept for Monograme came from Renato Cesar, an entrepreneur and product designer from Rio de Janeiro. After identifying the problem of the accessibility and cost of quality basic apparel in Brazil, Cesar started to build the company, commencing interviews and validation efforts towards the end of 2012. He also brought internet and design professionals on board to fill out the Monograme team: fashion designer Luisa Barros, creative director Erik Gustavo, operations manager Maria Brewer and advisor Fabio Seixas.
Since January of this year, Monograme has focused on talking to consumers, validating its value proposition and developing customer acquisition channels. Building its brand has been and will continue to be a main priority for the company, as will sourcing and product design. One of the six companies currently accelerating with Brazil’s 21212 Digital Accelerator, it is benefiting immensely from 21212’s network, expertise and support.
Just four weeks into Monograme’s pre-launch campaign, over 5,000 users have registered for the service. If all goes well, they won’t have to wait much longer to start using Monograme – the company’s first collection is expected to ship within the next 30 to 45 days.
We got in touch with Cesar to get a better look at Monograme’s value proposition and position in Brazil’s billion-dollar e-commerce market.
Emily Stewart: There are tons of players in the Brazilian e-commerce game right now. Why choose this niche?
Renato Cesar: We know there is a massive gap in the market for premium basics, and the e-commerce market in Brazil is ready to support our business. Today, only 6% of Brazilian clothing purchases are made online, whereas the global average is 22%. Because Brazilians are still getting comfortable with e-commerce, basics represent a strong opportunity today with a lot of room for future growth.
In the U.S. and abroad, companies like Bonobos, Frank & Oak and Everlane have proven the strength of vertical sales, and we believe this model has even greater promise in Brazil, where consumers have fewer options and margins are much higher.
ES: How are you managing this logistically?
RC: We have almost all the resources we need in-house: design, finance, operations and technology. We design our own clothes and manage everything, from the process of buying the fabric to the manufacture of the finished product. We are dealing with top fabric suppliers in Brazil and Peru.
ES: How do you render your product affordable, and what makes you think that Brazilian consumers will be receptive?
RC: In Brazil, you can wind up paying five to 10 times the cost of production for these products, due to the high cost of physical stores and middlemen as well as high markups by local brands. Our price is just a consequence of our choices and processes. We are focusing on the leanness of our supply chain. We emphasize a retail model that is fair and transparent to the customer. Our garments will be distributed without middlemen, direct to the consumer, enabling us to deliver a superior yet affordable product that fits and feels great.
ES: What’s been more challenging with Monograme, logistics or technology?
RC: If there is something that can kill a retail company, it’s logistics. But in my opinion, the biggest challenge that we are facing now is how to communicate, as a brand, our value proposition properly to our target – the concept of “luxury basics” is still misunderstood by some Brazilians.
ES: What has your experience been with 21212? Why choose to accelerate with the organization?
RC: I have worked with 21212 since before it launched (I was a director and head designer and helped the first and second batch of startups to design better products). As I’m part of the 21212 family, it was a natural process. As soon as Benjamin White, 21212’s co-founder, knew that I was running this project, he invited me to be part of 21212’s third class. And even being the earliest stage company there, the experience and the results from the program have being amazing.
With its lean supply chain focus, Monograme is following an up and coming trend in Brazilian e-commerce. A similar example is online eyewear brand LIVO.
Looking ahead, Monograme has set itself some lofty goals, aiming to become a main reference in Brazil’s premium basics market. Over the next six months, the company will put out at least four different new products and work to increase its base of customers and supporters.