Veronica Beard Returns to the Runway
Veronica Beard, the 12-year-old advanced contemporary company cofounded by sisters-in-law Veronica Swanson Beard and Veronica Miele Beard, is firing on all cylinders. The New York-based brand, with revenues that exceed $200 million, will be having a runway show Monday morning at Spring Studios.
“We’ve gone back and forth over the years doing presentations, and for our 10th-year anniversary we had our first runway show. Historically we’ve loved presentations, it’s a party, it’s inclusive, we can invite everybody and it feels like a big cocktail party. For this season, coming out of the last two years and just with the inflection this brand is having, we felt it was important to really participate,” said Swanson Beard during an interview with Miele Beard at their 26 West 17th Street headquarters.
Seated amid the spring collection and an image board of all the styles that will be shown on the runway Monday morning, Swanson Beard said, “We’ve become known for this signature Veronica Beard look. The tailoring’s important, the jeans are important, the footwear is now important, and just being able to show that all together and our true point of view was important to us.
“For spring the point of view is that it’s all sets and suits. It can be your typical suit, or it can be a denim suit. Or a denim set. Or a shirting look that’s head-to-toe shirting. Basically wearing a suit is as easy as it is to throw on a dress. It’s that easy to wear a suit or to wear a set and look extremely polished,” said Swanson Beard.
Of course there are the interchangeable dickeys — which for spring are coming in eyelet, tweed and novelty knitwear — that put them on the map.
Miele Beard added that the dickey concept was their original layering piece and it’s all how you style it. She said they’ll be showing bustiers with the pants, or the harness with the pantS. “It’s ways to evolve that look of the dickey, the layering,” she said.
Miele Beard said the company is growing by 86 percent this year. “We’re going to do in excess of $200 million in total revenues,” said Swanson Beard. The Beards are major investors in the brand, while Andrew Rosen, John Howard and Lew Frankfort are minority investors.
As for the company breakdown, 24 percent is retail, 27 percent is e-commerce, and 49 percent is wholesale. Two years ago, wholesale was a much larger part of the business, and the company made a concerted effort to expand its direct-to-consumer business.
Veronica Beard will have 23 freestanding stores by yearend, adding stores in Denver, Toronto, Suburban Square in Ardmore, Pennsylvania, and Scottsdale. Ten more will be added next year.
The company’s top wholesale accounts are Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom, Saks Fifth Avenue, and Bloomingdale’s, and Miele Beard pointed out that The NPD Group has ranked Veronica Beard as the number-two brand in contemporary. Number one is Free People. Veronica Beard was number five last year.
Swanson Beard said they design the line together with the team, and the cofounders share an office. She believes women have really started dressing up again and are returning to a more polished look as they go back to the office. Still, their customer relies heavily on her jeans.
“Our uniform is jeans, a blazer and a blouse, or a T-shirt, and that is the modern-day uniform for women,” said Swanson Beard. “A suit is appropriate. Everyone thinks work, but you look like a million bucks when you’re going to an event and you’re in a full set or a suit. It’s unfussy and you just look incredible. You’ll see in the collection there’s a lot of color.”
Right now their most successful store is at Madison and 77th Street in Manhattan. It’s 1,800 square feet. The sweet spot for the stores is between 1,500 and 2,500 square feet. Swanson Beard said that as they grow their categories, the average new store will be about 2,500 square feet.
Adding new categories to round out their lifestyle offering is a key component of their strategy. This month they introduced home products with Juliska.
“It’s a great opportunity for us to test home. What we’re doing is building a lifestyle brand. We just think there are just so many different avenues for us to get into,” said Swanson Beard. She said some of the categories they’re investigating are more home products, athleisure, sport, (they had a successful tennis collaboration with L’Etoile Sport), and cold weather accessories. They are starting to work on eyewear, handbags and jewelry. “We studied jeans for a long time before we launched them,” she said.
What makes their jeans different from other people’s jeans is fit, claimed Miele Beard. Their jeans retail from $195 to $295.
Denim, in fact, is up 33 percent from last year, said Swanson Beard. The denim collection includes T-shirts, shirts and dresses, but it’s not a diffusion line and it’s all done in-house. Eventually, when they add handbags, most likely in 2024, they will also be done in-house. The company has a licensing agreement with Caleres for footwear and recently won an Ace Award for launch of the year in footwear.
Dresses make up 25 percent of the business. That business grew 87 percent last year because everybody went back to partying again, said Miele Beard.
Miele Beard said they identified a white space in footwear. “We took the approach that we wanted to create the wardrobe of footwear. We felt there was an opportunity to create the closet for footwear and have the perfect bootie and have the great day flat, and a sneaker and a rain boot,” said Swanson Beard.
“We nailed the clog,” added Miele Beard. Their first season with Caleres was 2020. Footwear retails from $295 to $695.
Turning to international business, Veronica Beard opened a store in London in June. “International expansion is something we’ve been very measured about,” said Swanson Beard. “We feel there’s so much opportunity here. London is a keyhole into the world and the international customer is shopping there, so it’s great to start that dialogue.” They’re also opening Toronto in December, and are looking to open in Mexico City. The average customer spend in stores is $65.
Discussing spring trends, Swanson Beard said, “We’re doing this huge wide-legged jeans. We’re doing a lot of wide-legged trousers. Flares have been very big for us. And color. I think tailoring is such a big thing right now — proportions and tailoring.”
Both cofounders said there are no plans to go public. The company’s president, Stephanie Unwin, has been with the brand for nine years. “She’s the third leg of the triangle. She’s been an amazing partner and an amazing leader, she’s an executor,” said Swanson Beard.
In 2017, they had 35 employees, and now they have over 250 employees.
So the question is, is it really confusing for you both to have the same name?
“We always say we’re at two places at the same time. The secret sauce is having that camaraderie, and that trust. It’s two perspectives with one vision,” said Miele Beard, who grew up in North Caldwell, New Jersey.
Swanson Beard grew up in Florida and California. They met a wedding in 2002, when Miele Beard and her husband, Anson Beard, were seated at the same table with the then-Veronica Swanson, who met her husband, Jamie Beard, at the same wedding. Today, both couples have eight children between them.
Swanson Beard went to Parsons after she graduated from college and dropped out when she got an offer at Narciso Rodriguez. She later worked for Oscar de la Renta, and Alberta Ferretti and as a buyer for Marissa Collections. Miele Beard got her start on Wall Street, working for Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette, and Lehman Bothers and worked for Ron Galotti in ad sales. She also worked with Philippe Laffont to launch Coatue Management, a technology hedge fund, where she was a partner and chief operating officer.
With a dozen years under their belt at Veronica Beard, the two cofounders are looking to raise their profile.
“Brand awareness is something that we’re really working on,” said Swanson Beard. “We built this business on our product. This business has grown tremendously, even though we have 20 stores and we’re top vendors for all our wholesale accounts, we kept our head down as a brand while building this business. It’s really working on the brand awareness and who we align with. Who is the girl gang of this brand? That’s a really exciting opportunity for the next year.”