Want to know what makes an apparel brand super successful? We’ve got the inside scoop from Christina DuVarney, the owner of one of our favorite brands! Beautiful Disaster is a clothing brand that fulfills 300-500 orders a day. But it is how they have managed to connect with their customers that is truly unique.
We know that the clothing niche is booming; you just have to look at the 2019 trending products and top eCommerce stores to see the huge potential of starting a clothing business. However, the brand reminds us that popular product categories aren’t enough. Showing us how important it is to build a community around your brand and offer something unique and valuable to your shoppers.
From creation to growth, they have put an emphasis on creating a tribe so that all their shoppers feel like they are part of a community – a community of people who celebrate their beautiful imperfections while empowering and supporting each other. This is evident in every aspect of their business, from the products they design to the content they provide.
“With every fiber of clothing, it is our mission to empower the beautifully broken and perfectly imperfect.”
We sat down with the founder of Beautiful Disaster, Christina, to find out the secrets to how she was able to grow a multimillion-dollar online clothing brand while building a community and inspiring and supporting shoppers. Including an inside look into how the brand creates their designs, fulfillment strategies, best-performing traffic streams, customer experience strategies and more!
Grab that coffee, get comfy and be ready to be inspired.
1. How did you get started with Beautiful Disaster Clothing?
We started our apparel brand about thirteen years ago, out of my garage, on a small scale. We did this by putting a brand name on a tank top or a t-shirt that I would then sell at different local events and festivals, as well as to friends and family.
It was when I started to get a deeper understanding of how the brand made people feel that things really started to take off. Identifying with the concept of being a beautiful disaster has become incredibly powerful, and I am so honored to be able to give women a platform to wear clothing that makes them feel empowered, strong and better about themselves.
The foundation of our brand is our tribe.
There is a lot going on in the world that makes you feel like you should be perfect. And we understand that perfect does not exist.
We all have a story.
We at Beautiful Disaster are doing everything in our power to create a platform for people to feel proud of what they have been through and how they are healing and surviving. Some of the things our tribe has been through will bring you to your knees.
These women are unbelievable warriors who deserve to be celebrated.
2. Was your brand always called Beautiful Disaster?
Behind every success story there is failure. Just like behind every beautiful disaster there’s a story.
When I started my first clothing company, I picked a name that I thought was cheeky and cute and started printing it on t-shirts. It was only after I had already invested in my first run that I found out that someone else owned the name.
So I got a cease and desist letter about 11 years ago from a company, and quickly figured out that you can’t just put words on a shirt and print them. We hired an attorney, did our research, and made sure we did everything the legal, ethical way; we decided on a new brand name to Beautiful Disaster.
3. Are You Selling Mostly Off- or On-line?
We are now strictly an eCommerce online business. For years we concentrated on selling at music festivals, county fairs and other events. We only stopped doing events about a year and a half ago. Furthermore, we had a retail boutique up until about three months ago. However, we’ve decided as of 2019 to be 100% online.
We put in a lot of time on the road doing shows to build brand awareness and connecting with our potential shoppers, and just felt that we needed to put more energy into our online fulfillment. Instead, we now offer:
- On-site pick up for our local customers who are used to us having a store, where they can come to our warehouse in California
- Warehouse sales every four to six weeks where local shoppers still have that opportunity to connect with our local support staff, and our staff are able to connect with our most loyal customers who have been supporting us since day one
eCommerce has enabled us to reach and connect with so many women around the country and the world, catapulting our business.
4. Who Are Your Shoppers?
We don’t have a set demographic; we have a psychographic. This is because it doesn’t matter what age our female target audience shoppers are – we’re connecting to a mindset. We are an identity brand. People connect with what it means to be a beautiful disaster, and that has no age or income limit. It doesn’t have all of these regular demographic segmentations that other brands try to box their customers into. We’re different in that way; we have thirteen-year-olds buying and wearing our brand and we have shoppers in their 70s.
5. What are Your Most Successful Paid Traffic Streams for Reaching Customers?
We are very aggressive on Facebook and Google (with StoreYa). We have had a lot of success with Facebook video ads; they are by far the champions of our marketing efforts. We are able to capture the emotions and feelings of our brand with the story-telling abilities of video marketing.
In terms of Google, YouTube and Dynamic Product advertising, we were a little skeptical at first, as StoreYa seemed too easy to be true. So we started very slowly at first, tracking the ROIs on Traffic Booster to ensure we were getting the right results for our spend. We quickly began to see that the platform had significant ROIs and decided to scale up. And we’ve been scaling up ever since, getting an average of 9.4 ROAS.
If I hand you a dollar and you hand me back ten, it’s a no-brainer that we would then invest more.
6. What is Your Video Marketing Style and Approach?
We use a mixture of video clips and powerful emotion words and quotes. For instance, our most recent launch was for a collection called ‘You don’t know my story.’ The collection is so powerful – for the person wearing it and for people who see you wearing it. Our aim with this collection was to interrupt the power of judgment and have been able to share stories of the women in our tribe, merged with model shots, as well as featuring models who have their own stories.
View this post on Instagram
“There is nothing stronger than a broken woman who had to rebuild herself” Shop the You Don’t Know My Story collection, available in sizes 2-24 BDROCKS.COM Models: @mariselacouture @13rittanyblack Photography: @wisebynicole // BDROCKS.COM #YouDontKnowMyStory #beautifuldisasterclothing #beautifuldisaster #PerfectlyImperfect
In most of our video content, we feature plus and non-plus size models, with each of our models having a story. We have models who have battled eating disorders, who have had to teach themselves how to walk again. Ultimately, we are very particular about who represents our brand and who we feature in our videos.
7. How do You Tackle Your Content Marketing Strategies?
We leverage all of our digital marketing platforms to spread the word and create excitement and engagement around the brand and women’s personal stories. This includes utilizing our email lists and our blog. We are also developing our YouTube channel at a more rapid rate.
We are trying to be everywhere, creating valuable, meaningful content that people can connect with. It’s important to us that people to really connect with our brand and want to be apart of our tribe.
Right now we have 218k fans following our main Facebook page, over 8k in our private Facebook group and 59k followers on Instagram.
Instagram is a little slower in terms of platform growth. This is mostly because our customers are a little bit more active on Facebook than Instagram. But we have big plans for the coming year in terms of Instagram content strategies and posting volume.
8. Why did you create the Facebook Group?
Whether they are having a good or a bad day, we wanted to create a forum or platform where our customers (our tribe) could feel safe and secure to connect with other like-minded people who have been through hell and back like they have. Our Facebook group is an extraordinary place where our customers can connect with other women, share stories and offer advice, encouragement and support. It has cultivated an unbelievable, empathetic bond within that private group.
9. What is your email marketing strategy?
Like with all our marketing efforts, connectivity of the tribe comes first. Therefore, we utilize our emails to highlight a personal story (about once or twice a month) from one of our Beautiful Disaster tribe members, to empower and inspire the rest of our community.
Additionally, we send emails for product launches and exclusive sales, have an automatic welcome series, and send out emails for birthdays that thank our tribe for being born. All in all, we try to limit our emails to one or two a week, varying the content or campaign types. None of us like to get spam, so we ensure we don’t spam our customers.
We have also divided our mailing lists into lots of segments to ensure the content they are getting is highly relevant to them. And of course, we have automated email flows, including cart abandonment emails.
10. Who Develops and Creates Your Apparel Designs?
I am the creative director and come up with most of our base concepts. Additionally, we have a full-time in-house graphic artist, Jamie, who is an absolute genius. She has been designing this line for twelve years and became a partner and owner of our company a little over a year ago.
When we brainstorm ideas and concepts, she really brings design ideas to life. She has always been a massive part of the brand and the two of us are like two peas in a pod. We really can’t do what we do without each other!
11. What is Your Winning Formula for Creating and Launching Your Products?
Most of our designs come from emotions. We try to think about what our customers have been through and how they feel, and then we come up with graphics and statements or quotes that will empower and really connect with our shoppers. The design process can be broken down into the following steps:
We come up with the emotional concept.
We brainstorm the wording and design direction.
Our design guru, Jamie, then works her magic to come up with five or six different design mock-ups.
All of us review the options and decide on a final design as a group. This includes getting opinions from our whole team, including our warehouse bunnies.
We then put the strongest design into production.
Beautiful Disaster is continually developing new garment variants, product types and sizes for each collection. We are very unique because we offer sizes from 2 to 24; not a lot of brands have invested in expanding their collections into curvy sizes. This is something that is very, very important to our customers and us. Therefore, most of our garments are custom-produced either nationally or internationally, and we then screen print locally in Camarillo, California.
Once the products are screen printed, they are brought back to our headquarters and counted into stock. Our warehouse bunnies are constantly folding and putting products back on the shelves to make sure that as the orders roll in, they go straight out the door.
12. What is Your Order Process for Custom Garments?
With each custom garment, we always sample first. We make sure we use our fit model for every size to ensure the sizes are consistent and accurate. We always double check fit, comfort, material and quality, and everything gets hand checked and measured before going into full production.
13. And If a Design Fails?
Our customer feedback is the most valuable asset we have. In the rare case that we launch something and it bombs, we listen to why it bombed and assess where we went wrong, what we could have done better and pick ourselves up by the bootstraps and carry on. We don’t let it stop us or slow us down; if anything, it’s an opportunity for growth.
Every failure and misstep along the way has taught me so much. I wouldn’t change a thing because I would not be where I am today without overcoming every hurdle or doubt. If I hadn’t failed and picked myself up again, to do every single thing the way that I did it, the brand wouldn’t be what it is.
14. Have You Considered Outsourcing Your Fulfillment?
We visited a 3PL facility and just felt like it wouldn’t be a good fit for us. We know that nobody will care about our customers more than us. Ultimately, we were just not ready to hand over any portion of our business to anybody, therefore we decided to opt out of using an eCommerce fulfillment service.
We pride ourselves on being personal with our fulfillment: wrapping the packages in tissue, adding in our little notes, adding our stickers. We do everything to ensure every order has a special Beautiful Disaster touch, which has become part of our branding.
Plus, we want to provide jobs. We really love creating jobs in our business and creating a fulfilling work environment that our staff can thrive and grow in.
15. Who Are Your Other Partners?
It’s Jamie Vine, myself and my husband Tory DuVarney. My husband, who created the Beautiful Disaster brand with me, additionally created our other brand, Handsome Devil Clothing, which was formed before Beautiful Disaster was even born and we include on our site. We hope to grow at the same magnitude, but with Beautiful Disasters’ huge growth, our primary focus is there for now.
Working with my husband has been fantastic; we have something very unique and special. We’ve been together for sixteen years and our family motto is, “Everything together, always.” Everything we do is together; we are each other’s support system, and I could not be more blessed than to work side-by-side with him every single day.
16. How Lean is Your Business?
We have our own warehousing, with five amazing warehouse staff who pick, pack, pull and make sure each order is correct. They are the best, most incredible team of women we could have asked for. Additionally, we have a digital marketing manager who is off-site and located in Salt Lake City.
We are also in the process of hiring a videographer and editor so that we can distribute a lot more social content.
17. What are Your Customer Experience Strategies and Incentives?
- There is free shipping on orders over $75, within the US.
- We also offer free surprise gifts for every order over $50. Our gifts are always something exclusive, so they are not products we are selling on the site – a product that you could only get with your purchase. We are always changing our free gifts to keep them fresh and unique.
- We have a generous return policy that is up to 30 days for any unworn and unwashed products customers want to return.
- Furthermore, we recently added order insurance. This means customers can ensure the item for about a dollar – in case of delivery loss, theft or damage, to ensure an immediate replacement is sent, no questions asked. This makes customers feel safer about ordering by protecting them from ‘Porch Pirate’ trends in the US. For this, we use Route, which is fully integrated with Shopify.
18. Are You Using Shopify Advanced or Shopify Plus?
Shopify Advanced. Right now, Shopify Plus doesn’t offer us enough benefits to outweigh the costs for the upgrade. And we don’t believe the transaction rate reduction is significant enough for us to consider the move right now.
Bonus Content: Shopify vs. Shopify Plus, and How to Choose
19. What are Your Must-Have Apps?
Definite must-have eCommerce apps are StoreYa’s Traffic Booster, and Recart. Recart has helped us streamline our retargeting, abandoned cart and Facebook Messenger campaigns. It’s an absolute must-have.
I am actually in the process of developing a Shopify app. I can’t go too much into details as it is still very hush-hush. When you are a store owner and use Shopify and you look for an app, you often can’t find something that does exactly what you need it to do. So I decided to create it. I believe it is going to be a big disrupter of how eCommerce is used to operating, enabling a better customer shopping experience.
I can’t say too much, but it will be exciting and a must-have app when we launch on the app store.
20. What Can We Expect from Beautiful Disaster in the Future?
We have big plans on the go.
Our first order of business and priority for 2019 is our curvy section. We have really been putting a lot of time, energy, resources and money into developing our curvy lines. We want our tribe to be able to get everything we’re selling regardless of their shape or size, ensuring we cover sizes small right through to curvy 3X. This year we have committed to having a robust curvy section!
Additionally, we are planning on launching a new category. It’s also on the down-low so we can’t talk about it just yet. I will say it will be very exciting for our shoppers and will give Kylie Jenner a run for her money.
The ultimate dream for Beautiful Disaster is to do everything; being in multiple categories. We want the pillows on your couch, the lipstick on your face, the clothes that you wear and the shoes on your feet to empower you.
We’re just getting started!
There is no doubt that Beautiful Disaster offers us invaluable eCommerce lessons we can use to build multimillion-dollar businesses. But it is Christina and her team’s positivity, motivation and connection with their shoppers that really set them apart.
I will leave you with Christina’s number one piece of advice for online store owners:
“Connect with your customers and don’t just sell them things. If you have empathy and kindness and you create something that means something to someone, they will want to be a brand ambassador and use your products.”
For more inspiration on building a successful online clothing brand, visit our eCommerce Lessons from 16 Top Apparel Online Store Examples post and Success Story blog section
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