Six Brands Who Cut Out the Middle Man (And Changed the Way We Shop in the Process!)

Photo by: Courtesy of Warby Parker
Warby Parker
A early pioneer in the direct-to-consumer marketplace, this optical label was created by four bespectacled friends looking to create high-quality ... more 
Photo by: Courtesy of Warby Parker
Warby Parker
A early pioneer in the direct-to-consumer marketplace, this optical label was created by four bespectacled friends looking to create high-quality eyewear at a reasonable price. Today the brand is renowned for its wide variety of vintage-inspired frames and reasonable $95 (a pair of optical frames or regular sunglasses) to $150 (prescription sunglasses) prices, which stay so consistently low thanks to an in-house design team. Although the company started as an online-only endeavor, it's seen enough success in the last few years to open several freestanding stores around the country-and to make charitable donations. Using the help of non-profits like VisionSpring, Warby Parker ensures every eyewear purchase equals new glasses for a person in need.
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Thu, Jan 9, 2014 12:35 PM EST
by Alison Syrett Cleary

Say you're browsing the racks at a little boutique and spot something cute. Interest piqued, you grab it, check the sales tag and gasp in surprise. A good one or two more digits than you expected to see, the number seems unreasonably high. Why on earth it so much? Was this thing stitched with baby unicorn hair? Dipped in Holy Grail water? Gold-lined?

Unfortunately, the real reason behind your sticker shock is much less exciting: production costs. In order to turn a profit, brands need to mark pieces high enough to cover overhead fees such as rent, shipping and outsourced labor. And things get even more expensive when a label sells through another store-that just means extra paychecks to cover. The more middlemen involved, the more you're required to shell out.

But what would happen if companies could cut back on some of those extra parties? A growing trend of direct-to-consumer sites in the digital shopping space proves it slashes the price of luxury goods down to fast fashion prices-without sacrificing quality. To pull it off, these brands stay hyper-focused on a specific concept-be it basics, eyewear or otherwise-and sell it in small batches (almost) exclusively online. It's a business model where everyone wins: without brick-and-mortar and unsold overstock expenses to cover, labels can make money without mark-ups. To see this new guard of retail in action, check the slideshow above, where I've included the six best e-tailers out there dedicated to selling designer-level product at the lowest prices possible. Click through to change the way you shop forever.

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