It’s one of the biggest online boutiques selling clothes in the mid to high price range, and it’s not going away anytime soon. Revolve Group Inc., which includes brands such as Revolve, Revolve Man, and Forward by Elyse Walker, launched in 2003. Now Revolve, the biggest and most recognizable brand under the Revolve Group umbrella, seems inescapable, working with over 500 labels and 21 in-house labels, and selling to millions of customers. The online retailer’s success is a bit astonishing, though, especially considering the companies dismissal of sustainable and ethical fashion and the rise of conscious shopping amongst their key demographic, 20-something women. Why is a generation with a vendetta against fast fashion continuing to shop from a boutique that declared fashion is not art, but a science, a science to sell as much as possible?
Digiday Media spoke with Revolve co-founder Mike Karanikolas and writes that "Karanikolas hesitates to use the term "fast fashion," with its connotation of cheap goods, but [...] Revolve makes rapid-fire decisions and add hundreds of products to its "new" tab daily, an important ability in the quick-consumption fast fashion era, akin to Asos, which also updates its offerings daily." It is not just that Revolve pushes rapid and splurge purchases contributing to overconsumption, but the global boutique laughs at the sustainable fashion movement by choosing to promote brands and items that most consumers would consider "unethical." Currently, there are more than a few items made with real fur sold on the Revolve website. Despite most consumers determining that real fur is not "cool," the retailer still carries the material because its data says that those products are profitable, and profits are the sole reason for the Revolve's existence.
The online boutique achieved this profitability and notoriety largely thanks to its army of influencers. Revolve currently employs around 3,500 influencers who encourage their followers to shop from the retailer, a strategy that accounts for 70% of Revolve’s sales. Influencers are not just getting free clothes and a paycheck, though. Revolve also hosts elaborate vacations for their “brand ambassadors” to places like Thailand, Ibiza, and Bermuda, each trip costing an estimated $500,000. These trips, which are attended by influencers with millions of followers, are well documented on Instagram. This contributes to the never-ending stream of Revolve content on the platform, further pushing the brand on consumers.
The success of Revolve and its pervasiveness says a lot about influencer marketing. It also sheds some light on why cheaply made, “throwaway fashion” persists despite Gen Z consumers being the most conscious group thus far—proving that once again, Instagram and influencers are double-edged swords when it comes to advancing sustainability initiatives in fashion. They can help promote eco-friendly shopping practices like secondhand shopping and brand accountability, but they also promote the idea that consumers need more clothes.
Will Revolve ever go away? Not soon. The retailer has seen a 12% year-over-year decrease in net sales at the end of Q2, but comparatively, that number is easy enough to bounce back from, a sentiment shared in their latest financial results report. In 2018, Revolve Group Inc. made $499 million in net sales and $31 million in profits. That was up from $400 million in net sales and $5 million in profits in 2017, and only $74 million was spent on marketing in 2018. As long as influencer marketing continues to have a good return, Revolve will continue to grow, dominating the online boutique and fast fashion space.