“Most consumers know that high-end products are not necessarily expensive to make, but they are very expensive to market and sell,” says Cai, who received $13 million from prominent investors such as Comcast Ventures, Global Founders Capital, and others. Italic launched with 80 items, including many stylish handbags, with prices capping at $300; whereas designer handbags of the same quality sell for an average price of $900. Italic also offers cashmere scarves, stylish sunglasses, luxe bedding, and they will soon include high-end skincare, prescription sunglasses, sweaters, and sneakers. For now, the invite-only customers pay $10 membership fees and they can only make two purchases per month, due to limited inventory.
“Those who only buy Louis Vuitton or designer brands, will likely not be our main customers,” says Cai. “Italic will appeal to customers who appreciate quality products, at much lower prices, without the designer logos.”
On a recent afternoon, Cai met me at the Italic headquarters inside the WeWork office space in West Hollywood. Dressed casually cool in a white t-shirt and gray pants, he was optimistic about his company’s expansion. He is proud that his team has grown to 21 employees and they will be moving to a larger office by mid-2019. Cai oversees every aspect of Italic, including marketing, customer fulfillment, quality control, and customer service. He also supervises the website that connects top-tier manufacturers with their discriminating buyers.
Cai led me to the Italic showroom, through a maze-like corridor with floor-to-ceiling glass walls. Samples of their best-selling items such as the Ariane and the Claire leather totes, and the Luca cross-body bags, were on display at various tables. Nearby, a metal rack with cashmere scarves in burgundy, gray, and black, hung next to several styles of leather jackets. I reached for a red leather bucket handbag–it felt soft, yet sturdy, and I noted the superb design and the delicate stitching. The style and the fine craftmanship, reminded me of a Mansur Gavriel bag that I own, although Italic’s version was less than half the price of the MG bag. To avoid copyright infringement, Cai said that all of the designs created for Italic are exclusive to his company and they have not previously been produced by the factories for any other brands.
Cai may be new to fashion, but it’s not his first startup. He previously founded and ran Fountain.com, an HR software company in San Francisco. In March of 2019, he relocated to Los Angeles to launch Italic. Cai grew up in Chicago, where his parents owned a manufacturing business that supplied auto parts to BMW, Tesla, and Nissan. From these connections, he and his team visited over 200 factories, in Italy and China, before choosing 15 manufacturers for Italic items based on their expertise, criteria of work conditions, sustainability, and certifications.
For additional information, or to become a member of Italic, please visit Italic.com.