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Photo: Italic

Factories in places like China and Italy quietly manufacture goods for high-end brands like Prada and Burberry, but a new startup called Italic is making it possible for these manufacturers to sell directly to consumers.

The bottom line: Italic says it’s a win-win for buyers and sellers. Consumers can purchase high quality products at a fraction of the price of the luxury brand, while the factories get higher margins on their goods since they’re not losing profits to multiple middlemen.

  • So far, Italic has inked partnerships with 15 factories, according to founder and CEO Jeremy Cai, and products range from handbags to skincare and winter jackets. “The quality of apparel and fashion manufacturers in the US don’t compare to Asia and Europe,” he explains.
  • Unlike traditional deals with brands, the factories are assuming the cost of the inventory, since Italic is acting as a marketplace — but it’s providing the marketing, warehouse, design, and connection to customers, says Cai. And for that, it takes a cut from the sales.
  • Italic has also raised $13 million from Comcast Ventures, Global Founders Capital, Index Ventures and Ludlow Ventures, among others.

Of course, this model won’t work for absolutely all products, Cai concedes. In the case of, say a Louis Vuitton bag covered in the company’s iconic logo, the luxury brand is the main reason consumers purchase the items and pay the hefty price tag.

  • Intellectual property laws can make it tricky for certain categories, like electronics, for example.
  • Cai also says he has found it challenging to convince factories to take on the risk of the inventory since Italic hasn't yet proven its model works, adds Cai.

Still, the popularity of generic products, retailers’ house brands, and even new online businesses like Brandless (which touts its ability to cut out the “brand tax” on consumer packaged goods) suggests that Italic could be onto something.

  • Cai is encouraged by the 100,000 prospective customers — largely urban dwellers aged 20 to 35, well educated — already signed up on Italic’s waitlist. On Thursday, a portion of them will be able to start shopping by becoming members on the Italic site.

Go deeper

Jan. 6 panel subpoenas 2 far-right "America First" activists

The House panel investigating the Capitol riot, from left; Reps. Bennie Thompson, Liz Cheney, Adam Kinzinger and Jamie Raskin on Capitol Hill in December. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

The House select committee investigating the Capitol riot issued subpoenas Wednesday for far-right leaders Nick Fuentes and Patrick Casey, who allegedly encouraged followers to go to D.C. and challenge the 2020 election results.

Why it matters: The action underscores the panel's increasing focus on rallies held ahead of the Capitol attack and how extremists were drawn to former President Trump's baseless claims of widespread voter fraud, per the New York Times.

Democrats fail to change Senate rules to pass voting rights bill

Senate Majority Leader during a news conference in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Democrats failed Wednesday night to change Senate filibuster rules to pass the voting rights bill, with Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) voting with Republicans.

The big picture: The failed effort came after Senate Republicans blocked the voting rights measure from coming to a final vote earlier Wednesday.

Updated 4 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Supreme Court rejects Trump's attempt to shield documents from Jan. 6 committee

Photo: Melissa Sue Gerrits/Getty Images

The Supreme Court rejected on Wednesday night a bid by former President Trump to block the release of documents and records from his administration to the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol.

Why it matters: Trump asked the Supreme Court to step in and block the release of the documents last month after a panel on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit unanimously denied his attempt to prevent the committee from obtaining the materials.

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