Think about Milwaukee and the image that usually comes to mind is beer, not fashion or crafts. But Milwaukee-based Fashion Angels Enterprises has created a solid reputation for the design and manufacture of high quality products for tween girls since 1996.
“Our core mission is all about the product and wanting to make the best product we can,” CEO Mark Miller says. “We will never shortchange the product or dumb it down. We will make it fun and innovative in a way that the consumer can have an extraordinary experience.”
Initially known as The Bead Shop, the company can trace its roots to Mark and Goldi Miller’s 10 boutique fashion stores, called Goldi, that were located around the Midwest. After seeing success selling loose beads in the stores, the Millers eventually chose to sell beads on a larger sale and ultimately started selling craft and beading kits.
The Fashion Angels name came into being with the 4 Fashion Angels Paper Doll Fashion Design Kit, which included fabric, clothing and accessory patterns, gems, buttons and other trimmings. By 2006, the company had grown beyond just bead kits, which is why The Bead Shop rebranded and became Fashion Angels Enterprises.
“We have a different perspective from most toy companies, having come from fashion and fashion retail,” Miller says. “We understand the consumer, and we love innovation, trend and change. For many companies, that is where they struggle. For us, we are comfortable dealing with constant change and finding the next trend.”
Today the company designs and manufactures fashion design and craft kits, an eco-friendly line, a jewelry and accessory line, pet products and licensed product lines. The licensed product lines include products connected to various popular brands, including Project Runway, Barbie, Hot Wheels, Monster High and Lalaloopsy. The company is the brainchild of three partners: Mark and Goldi Miller, and Goldi’s sister, Myra Mouloudji, who is an equally engaged partner.
Its product lines have been extremely well received by consumers and industry stakeholders alike. In fact, Fashion Angels’ Project Runway Sketch Portfolio is a finalist for The Toy Industry Association’s Activity Toy of the Year.
Fashion Angels’ products can be found in more than 10,000 retail stores in the United States, and they are distributed on a global level, as well. It is the company’s goal to create innovative, quality products that are in line with – or out in front of – fashion trends.
The company is always looking to add to and improve its product line. This year, the company has already announced the redesign of its packaging, as well as additions to both licensed products and the Fashion Angels brand. For its own brand, Fashion Angels is releasing new signature products, hair kits and some jewelry accessories. These include the Tapefitti Tape Art Sets, Fashion Sticker Stylist Sets, Velvet Poster Collections, the Braidzilla Bracelet Braiding Kit, the Color Rox Hair Chox Kit and the Feather Fashion Accessory Kit.
“Hair Chox and Tapefitti are two new products in particular that are getting a huge response from retailers and consumers,” Miller says.
As for licensed products, 2012 marks the year that Fashion Angels entered into an agreement with MGA Entertainment to devise a complete licensed line of high quality craft and activity Lalaloopsy products. In addition, Fashion Angels launched the new Monster High Fashion Sticker Stylist Kit. The company will also be making additions to its licenses for Project Runway and with Mattel for Barbie.
“Innovation in design and understanding of trends are core to us, and that culture marries well with the view and outlook of our licensing partners,” Miller says. “Our strategy is to have licenses and develop our own brand, and our growth pattern has been phenomenal. This year, sales are up 76 percent compared to where we were last year at this time, and we’re on a dramatic growth trajectory. A combination of licenses with our own brand has been key to that growth.”
The company is also making enhancements to how products are presented to retailers and consumers. It is developing a video program complete with product demonstrations for retailers. Fashion Angels plans to add individual QR codes to each product so individual consumers can scan the code and access product videos, as well. Miller says the video effort will help create excitement for each product.
Fast and continuous growth means Fashion Angels has had to expand its lines of distribution. Fashion Angels’ roots are in the specialty retail world, and it understands that group extremely well. However, its products translate well into the mass, mid-tier and specialty segments of the retailer world, so it has made efforts to expand distribution lines to reach all segments.
The company also has invested heavily into building a team of senior people with the experience required to bring different insights into the company’s long-term strategic plan and help manage growth. Beyond that, Fashion Angels is developing and refining internal systems to ensure real-time internal communication and make other improvements so daily operations are as efficient as possible.
“We have offices in Ningbo, and we have our own people in the factories making sure quality, testing and shipping is all good,” Miller says.
In the end, the company’s success comes down to its continued ability to create products that will be successful. Miller explains that Fashion Angels has internal people who are experienced managers and keep retailers informed about product performance, even down to individual store performance on a real-time basis.
“We must also manage projections well and refine our daily review process,” Miller stresses. “But our main challenges are to manage growth, deliver innovation and have products available when retailers need them.”