Chatting with Jeremy Cai about Italic and building a luxury business that’s… brandless

2 min read
Clayton Chambers
Clayton Chambers
Clayton Chambers

Published: December 01, 2022

We’re proud to carry Italic products on our website, and we want to introduce you to its founder, Jeremy Cai, who gives us a deeper look into the world of luxury goods, and ultimately why Italic is shifting how consumers shop those luxury goods.

Tell us your journey to being a founder. How’d you get started in this business?

My parents immigrated to the US and, after working late-night restaurant jobs to pay the bills, started a string of businesses. Most were unsuccessful, ranging from vegan cheesecake (ahead of their time!) to electronics, but the one that stuck was in manufacturing. It’s a thankless, grueling job but I was always inspired by their relentless grit and commitment to service.

Following in their footsteps, I dropped out of college as part of the then-new Thiel Fellowship and pursued a career in technology startups before returning back to the manufacturing world with Italic. We visited hundreds of factories in Asia, Europe, and the Americas to validate our thesis before committing to our mission to equip manufacturers to bypass the standard supply chain and instead deliver higher quality products to our customers for less.

How’d you come up with the idea for Italic and why do you think it’s so attractive to consumers right now to have high-end products that are essentially brandless?

Fundamentally, we believe that luxury should be defined by the quality of the product. Consumers are more informed than in years past. Luxury brands that used to be able to count on mystique and premium materials alone are now forced to resort to artificial scarcity and hype to justify their high markups and preserve profits.

Luxury now is about status and marketing, but it wasn’t always this way. Luxury once represented exceptional materials, beautiful design, and excellent craftsmanship. But, as the industry has evolved, quality has become secondary to the bottom line and the marketing machine.

“Italic was born to challenge this notion and to return to a more egalitarian form: a world where an aspirational lifestyle and beautiful products that people would consider luxuries are made accessible to everyone.”

What’s the future of Italic look like? Also, is there an opportunity for retail some day?

Our industry is at a crossroads with many peers having raised significant capital in recent years in the pursuit of growth at all costs while the world has shifted dramatically and suddenly towards the opposite direction. We have not been averse to this and have mistakenly over-ordered inventory and overspent on trying to grow faster, albeit not as dramatically or critically as others.

We are pursuing a more sustainable growth strategy now by investing in our brand by delivering a rewarding, surprisingly good customer experience first and foremost.

Earlier this year, we overhauled almost everything from our shipping and packaging all the way to sunsetting hundreds of products that didn’t meet our bar in an effort to deliver a better impression to new customers. We expect to continue this trend for the next few years.In the spirit of focusing on our customer experience, we have not pursued a retail strategy as we are 1) not in a position yet where we feel confident in delivering a wonderful retail experience on par with our brand and 2) Italic is not yet a household brand that can attract customers to visit our branded stores if they existed. When that changes in the coming years, it may be something we would pursue.

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