Revolve Co-Founder Michael Mente Bridges Gap Between Fashion and Digital Influencers
With luck on his side, Michael Mente dropped out of a 4th year Entrepreneur program at the University of Southern California to join a promising start up company, NextStrat, in 2000. Although the company later had issues with bankruptcy, the relationship Michael made with a co-worker, Mike Karanikolas, would soon prove to be worthwhile. This dynamic duo left the startup in 2002 and quickly became business partners, which soon led to the launch of Revolve, an online clothing site, just a few short months later. Currently, Revolve is set to bring in $400 million dollars in sales this year and is considered the one-stop shop for clothing items designed by some of the hottest emerging designers. Although neither Michael nor Mike had any background in the fashion industry, they saw potential in the emerging LA fashion scene and one major area for growth: Accessibility. “The initial part of the business, when it was early 2003, was just providing access to product,” says Michael. The purpose in creating Revolve was to eliminate the process of making a customer drive from store to store in search of the perfect pair of jeans. Instead, Revolve would provide consumers with a wide selection of fits, sizes, and washes that could be easily accessed online and shipped to your doorstep.
Over the years, Michael has built a business strategy that puts a unique spin on traditional advertising. Although fashion editorials are a huge part of the industry, Michael knew that these over-the-top advertisements aren’t realistic for the average consumer, which is why he began developing organic relationships with bloggers to represent the brand on a more realistic level. To do so, Revolve regularly hosts getaways to provide a space for bloggers and influencers to gather, relax, and mimic the lifestyle of an ideal Revolve customer.
These trips, which have previously taken place in Palm Springs, the Hamptons, Croatia, and Miami, have created a realistic form of advertising for Revolve. Instead of producing a staged editorial ad, these getaways provide Revolve consumers with a directly relatable example of someone wearing the brand and having a good time and hashtagging #RevolveAroundTheWorld. “It makes sense for our customer, our demographic, and our brand,” says Michael. “This is what ‘our girl’ wants to do.” With digital influence at an all-time high, it is evident that Revolve will hold its spot as the go-to online shopping site as they continue to focus on communicating relatable standards.
SAGAPONACK, NY – JULY 25: Olivia Culpo and Michael Mente attend The REVOLVE Hamptons House on July 25, 2015 in Sagaponack, New York. (Photo by Matthew Eisman/Getty Images for REVOLVE)
MONTAUK, NY – JULY 03: Shay Mitchell attends the REVOLVE Pop-Up launch party at The Surf Lodge on July 3, 2015 in Montauk, New York. (Photo by Matthew Eisman/Getty Images for REVOLVE)
With the idea of supporting up-and-coming bloggers, designers, and digital influencers at the core of Revolve’s growth, it is no surprise that Michael decided to expand his digital offerings by launching a sister company, FORWARD, in 2008. Although Revolve prides itself in providing affordable and stylish items to customers, Michael saw a gap between affordable and high end items, which provided grounds for him to create an online shopping experience that falls in the middle. After partnering with fashion's Elyse Walker in 2008, FORWARD has since grown into a massive company, and with Michael and Elyse’s creative minds at the foundation of the business, FORWARD has become the go-to place for premier luxury fashion.
“I was nervous when we started the program — I don’t know how to mentor these designers because I don’t know much about designing,” Michael says. “But then when we met with them, it was super cool because we had a half day of strategy and brainstorm-type sessions, where it was just like small business owners talking small businesses and struggles and challenges... We can’t help them be better designers, but we can help them think about things like building infrastructure, finding the right partner, and things like that.”
Overall, it is clear that Michael’s core goal in supporting emerging designers has led him to establish a fashion empire that is not yet at its peak. Since Revolve's launch in 2003, it has grown into a thriving business with over 500 employees, a sister company, FORWARD, and 6 acquired brands, including Lovers + Friends, Tularosa, NBD, RAYE, Privacy Please, and L’Academie. Although it would be easy to stray away from the company’s initial purposes, Michael says that he wants to remain as true to Revolve’s origins as possible, all while adapting the company’s growth and successes. “It starts with us being leaders in a different way than it was as entrepreneurs,” he says. “It really is trying to preserve the entrepreneurial-ness, but we also do have to embrace a bigger business mentality without losing what is so important to us.”