How Revolve’s Chief Brand Officer, Raissa Gerona, Is Reshaping The E-Commerce Giant From The Outside In
By Gabby Shacknai
When Raissa Gerona officially joined Revolve Group in 2014, she wasn’t entirely sure what her role at the company would be. Fresh off of selling Lovers + Friends, a brand she started with Revolve cofounder and co-CEO Michael Mente, to the online fashion behemoth, she already had about seven years of experience working with the retailer in a designer-buyer capacity, and in the wake of the acquisition, she started exploring the world of bloggers and influencers.
“At that time, I was really hooked on the concept of a blog; I thought it was so cool that BryanBoy and Rumi Neely and all of them were going to Fashion Week and getting photographed, and I thought it was the start of something big,” Gerona recalls. As a veteran small business owner with a small budget, she was used to thinking outside the box when it came to marketing and customer acquisition, so when Revolve approached her with the goal of creating a true brand identity and affinity, she knew just where to turn: influencers.
“When I first pitched the concept of traveling with influencers to Mike and Michael, [Revolve’s co-CEOs], they didn’t really understand why we would just go travel and take a bunch of photos, but I explained to them that there was this thing called Instagram and that it was so perfect for fashion and outfits,” Gerona says. “I said we needed to put all of the clothes that we were selling, the thousands of SKUs on Revolve, on these bloggers in a very authentic way so the customers could see how and where to wear it.”
After getting the green light to try the concept, she organized a small trip to Sedona, Arizona, with influencers Chiara Ferragni and Sincerely Jules in 2014. Despite the tiny budget and rudimentary photography and editing, the strategy seemed to be working, and the posts led to massive upticks in Revolve’s sales and its engagement on social media. “In terms of the timing, it was just so perfect and so lucky,” explains Gerona, who was named Chief Brand Officer shortly after. “We were really at the beginning of Instagram and the beginning of the influencer world, so we were one of the first brands to do these trips and this kind of influencer marketing.”
In the years since, Revolve’s influencer trips, now known as #RevolveAroundTheWorld, have grown profoundly, and the company has expanded its marketing strategy to a handful of other influencer-driven programs and events, including the Revolve Awards and Revolve Festival at Coachella. And even as the retailer has become widely known for its partnerships with Instagram’s most prominent users, the approach has proved rather timeless, thanks to the ever-changing nature of the influencer space. “What’s really been great for us is that there are so many new influencers that come to the scene and the platform every single day, so we’ve been able to align with new people over time,” Gerona says. “Then with the rise of TikTok and other apps, I still feel like there’s so much we can do to evolve the brand even further.”
Despite the continued success and seemingly limitless potential of influencer marketing, however, the Chief Brand Officer has spent much of the last two years thinking about how to reignite Revolve in different ways. “For the last decade, people have just associated Revolve with influencers, but they often forget that we have over 800 brands on the site, 80 percent of which are small businesses,” she notes. “And while influencers will always be a huge part of our marketing strategy, it was essential for us to remind people that not only do we have this great platform for influencers but we also have this great platform for brands and designers.”
Determined to do just that, Gerona devised a series of programs for the company’s New York Fashion Week debut in September 2021. Long known for rebuking the establishment, the retailer decided to embrace fashion tradition during one of the most anticipated weeks of the year in an effort to assert its power and prestige within the industry. There was a much talked-about runway show for its collaboration with designer Peter Dundas, taking place on the roof of the latest members-only club with iconic editors, like Anna Wintour and Carine Roitfeld, sitting alongside social media stars. Then, there was Revolve’s first-ever table at the Met Gala, an event known as the biggest night in fashion, where the biggest names in Hollywood climb the storied museum steps wearing priceless couture and setting trends for months to come.
But highlighting the company’s serious fashion chops wasn’t all Gerona had in store for NYFW; she wanted to showcase Revolve’s tight-knit community of customers, too. “A lot of the things we’ve done over the last decade have been great, but trips are for influencers, and festivals are for super high-value customers and celebrities,” she explains. “So, for NYFW, we wanted to create a place where we could not only invite the influencers and celebrities but also our customers and anyone who was a fan of the brand.” And alas, the concept for the Revolve Gallery was born.
A museum-like exhibition with 17,000 square feet of immersive fashion displays, the Gallery featured 13 brands, each displayed in its own room and worn by a mix of live models and mannequins. Guests entered the space to see a sprawling pink carpet, but unlike the Dundas x REVOLVE show just a few days earlier, this photo opp wasn’t intended solely for celebrities and influencers. Although the likes of Kylie Jenner, Megan Fox, Paris Hilton, and Camila Coelho were among those photographed, all of the event’s attendees—6,000 in total over the course of its three days—were invited to take a turn on the step-and-repeat. “I think having an event that’s open to the public during a week and really a time when everything is just for editors and talent really helped change the narrative,” Gerona says. “So, NYFW was this moment for Revolve to really say yes, influencers drive so much growth and so much traffic, but all of these other people, the customers, are just as important to the brand.”
By the end of Fashion Week, #RevolveGallery had over 1,500 posts on Instagram, some from the brand’s influencer partners, many of whom were paid to post, but most from its non-famous attendees, and according to Tribe Dynamics, the hashtag generated $7.9 million in earned media value between September 6 and 11. “We’re now trying to find a good balance,” Gerona says of the coexistence between Revolve’s tried-and-true influencer marketing, including #RevolveAroundTheWorld trips and Revolve Festival, and its newer, designer- and customer-focused approach.
The Chief Brand Officer says she, alongside the company’s leadership team, has also used this juncture to amend the way the retailer handles diversity and inclusion, something it was heavily criticized for in 2018 and again in 2020. “We’ve realized that Revolve is a brand that people really look to, and we just had our heads down for a long time,” she explains. “So, we’re really making an effort to change that.”
After forming the Diversity and Inclusion Committee in 2020, the company introduced the Revolve Mentorship Program last year to support and cultivate the growth of Black-owned and designed brands. Additionally, Revolve more than tripled the number of Black-owned brands sold on its site, an improvement that is at least in part due to the changing way its buyers evaluate perspective designers. “The buyers used to just look at designs and assess whether they would appeal to our customers, but now they’re looking at who’s behind the brand, what they believe in, what efforts they’re making to make their own business more inclusive, and more,” Gerona says.
Revolve has also spent the last two years thinking about the sustainability and how it can reduce its carbon footprint. “There are so many ways to be sustainable, even as simple as choosing longer shipping times because expedited shipping carries greater greenhouse gas emissions,” the Chief Brand Officer notes. “But we also want to make sure that we really understand what we’re getting behind because we don’t want to do things just for the sake of doing things.” In 2021, the retailer launched its biggest sustainability initiative to date, Revolve for the World, which shines a light on environmental organizations working to make a difference, as well as a sustainable shop where customers can shop hundreds of eco-conscious styles. “But just like diversity and inclusion, sustainability is just a forever thing now,” Gerona says. “It’s not something we have one or two events and activations around; it’s something that’s becoming an integral part of our entire business.”
Even though Revolve is entering its 19th year and Gerona is now in her eighth year with the company, she still feels like they’re just getting started. “I’m so excited,” she says. “Obviously, the pandemic has been extremely hard on many levels, but it’s also just made everyone realize that it’s much easier to shop online, so we’ve really benefited from that.” And with record sales and growth in 2021, making both of its cofounders billionaires, Revolve’s new brand strategy appears to already be taking the company to even greater heights.