Rachel Gannon wanted a different type of off-price experience. That’s why she founded Cara Cara, her e-commerce site that takes the discount designer experience of T.J. Maxx and the like and turns it into a “curated marketplace” rather than a “treasure hunt” through piles of cast-offs. The South L.A.-based entrepreneur—who did stints with RueLaLa, Macy’s, and ban.do—launched in late 2019, with a roster of indie brands handpicked based on their ethical manufacturing practices, thoughtful designs, and/or sustainability.
“We’re a marketplace of discovery,” she explained. “We’re picking the best of the best and making sure [our products] meet a threshold, so you’re not sifting through junk to find treasure.”
For those looking for high-quality, playful boutique apparel at affordable prices, Cara Cara is a wonderland: You’ll find clothes from Rachel Antonoff, Rhode, and Samantha Pleet alongside colorful shoes from Charlotte Stone and Seychelles. HAY, Bornn, and Sunnylife pop up in the Living section, which offers decorative accessories such as prints, stationery, and planters. And specialty brands such as Rains, Baggu, and Le Specs appear with deep discounts on their signature products. The selection refreshes at least every two weeks, with prices up to 70% off.
The pandemic proved to be a silver lining for the company’s first few months. As Gannon’s small team sought to find their footing, small designers and brands who were faced with canceled orders and inventory overflow touched base to forge connections and test the Cara Cara waters.
As Cara Cara grows, Gannon says her strategy will continue to be buying practices committed to quality, ethics, and good design, as well as enforcing diversity and inclusion across all facets—especially through photography, where the site features models of a variety of shapes, sizes, races, and genders. While Gannon sees original photography as another opportunity to stand out from other off-price retailers’ e-commerce sites, Cara Cara’s image is also designed to make a statement. Gannon was one of the former employees to speak out last June about allegations of racism and toxic behavior behind the scenes at Ban.do—particularly in regard to photography and model castings. “I fought for [representation],” she said. “But I didn’t have control over those parts of the decision.”
Cara Cara’s photography is never retouched and almost always features two elements: a diverse set of models, and citrus fruits. (Cara Cara, like the oranges, get it?) While they predominantly sell clothing categorized as women’s apparel, Gannon taps friends of all races, body shapes, and gender identities to model their products.
“We hear from people who do not identify with a gender who say they feel comfortable shopping with us,” she explained. “It’s hard to shop from a site where you don’t see yourself reflected on it.”
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