Sandy Sholl is a visionary leader and highly trusted influencer who has pioneered cultural movements in the fashion industry for more than 30 years. As co-founder and Executive Chair of MadaLuxe Group, the fashion industry’s go-to distributor of luxury products, she works not only with the world’s most prestigious retailers, but also sells directly to consumers through MadaLuxe Vault.
Sandy recently launched a MadaLuxe investment arm called SLS Journey, which focuses on high-potential emerging companies at the intersection of wellness, beauty, fashion and technology. SLS Journey’s initial investment is in PSYKHE, the first company to use AI and psychology to drive personalization in luxury fashion e-commerce.
I sat down with Sandy to discuss how she taps into cultural insights and stays ahead of trends to drive behavioral change in luxury retail and why she decided to apply her entrepreneurial expertise to investing in other visionary entrepreneurs.
What drew you to the luxury fashion industry?
I started as a fashion designer and have always been fascinated with how people identify themselves and express their individuality through clothing. Fashion is the theater of the world and luxury is all about a certain kind of dream and lifestyle. The artisans who create the luxury dream share their work in all kinds of ways. For example, we see it featured in films all the time. Everyone sees this theater and wants to participate in the dream.
I wanted to make that dream more accessible in America and be able to bring it to everyone.
How did you identify the white space for MadaLuxe?
When the internet revolution happened, it educated more people on the luxury brands. At the time, I felt that the culture in America was about to change and that everyone would want some piece of luxury in their own closet. In my view, luxury has always been a lifestyle choice, but not one that you necessarily should have to spend a lot of money on to enjoy. There was nobody making luxury accessible to middle America back then, and not everyone lives in a major city where you can just walk into Fendi or Gucci or Versace.
With MadaLuxe, we helped define this cultural shift by building a very strong luxury company that grew to become the trusted partner of Europe’s iconic maisons in North America. We specialize in the curation and distribution of handbags, eyewear, clothing, footwear, timepieces and more from brands that include Fendi, Gucci, Versace, Celine, Balenciaga and Alexander McQueen, to name a few.
Today, there are not many people in America who don’t have or want to have at least one piece of luxury fashion in their closet.
How did you further define cultural shifts with MadaLuxe?
Luxury had been more of an in-store experience until about a decade ago. It’s a segment that’s very focused on providing an extraordinary customer experience, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that you are only targeting shoppers who are spending a lot of money. Since our goal has always been to make luxury accessible to everyone, our natural evolution was to expand and go directly to consumers. We brought product to the market, and with MadaLuxe Vault, we helped create opening price point categories, like luxury fashion watches, eyewear and scarves.
Today, payments are the next frontier in making luxury accessible, and we’ve been working with companies like Klarna to expand buy-now, pay-later payment options. This is particularly important to Gen Z shoppers, who have grown up with luxury and expect to have it in their wardrobes without needing to take on debt.
As a result of making luxury both more accessible and more affordable through alternative payment options, our e-commerce business has exploded in the past year. Since the start of the pandemic, we’ve seen 500% e-commerce growth.
Why did you launch SLS Journey?
I’m an entrepreneur myself, investing in other entrepreneurs.
With SLS Journey, I’m bringing the knowledge, organizational support and funding to invest in companies that will be the future of luxury shopping. We’re in a new decade and witnessing a new cultural movement and I wanted to launch the investment arm to bring the luxury experience to the next level.
Early-stage companies often have a firm handle on their growth and trajectory, but could use resources, distribution and access to consumers. With SLS Journey, we can fill in the gaps in order to help important next-generation businesses that are driving cultural change scale through strategic partnership.
Can you tell me a bit about your first investment?
Shopping is such a personal experience and clothing is a direct reflection of our psyche. It’s truly a display of who we are. And who we are at our core doesn’t really change. That’s why some pieces we own may sit in our closets, while we wear others again and again.
Predictive analytics tries to meet this need—to match our clothes to our persona—by bringing shoppers “‘personalized” offers, but most of these are based on past purchases, which may not reflect who a person truly is. You may have bought a turtleneck because you needed one for a particular occasion, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you need more for the next 10 years.
This is why I was so inspired by PSYKHE, my first investment. It’s the first company to use AI and psychology for personalization in e-commerce. The platform lets you shop by your mood and is powered by machine learning and personality-trait science to serve up truly personalized recommendations. It builds the ultimate stylist that knows you inside and out, just like a personal stylist would know your taste intimately. Also, the founder, Anabel Maldonado, is a fashion journalist with a background in neuropsychology. She brings an exceptional vision and the ability to execute not only in terms of the product, but in terms of a cultural movement.
I’m very excited about SLS Journey and about continuing to drive new cultural models and consumer behavioral shifts through curated, customized and personalized luxury experiences. Technology is propelling the next cultural movement—and luxury is now for everyone.