SSENSE – The Canadian answer to online fashion

by Youri Sawerschel , 4 July 2018

Using editorial to create an essence

SSENSE (pronounced “essence”) is an online fashion platform that sells products from a selection of luxury, streetwear and avant-garde designers – brands from Versace to Valentino to Vans. But it has transcended the status of third party e-commerce company to become a huge brand in its own right.

Founded in Montreal, in 2003, by brothers Rami, Firas and Bassel Atallah, SSENSE started humbly; the original platform being built by student Rami for his computer engineering thesis. The company has since grown very organically, with no investors, but has had consistently astounding growth and now serves 114 countries, receiving 32 million page views per month.

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The driving force behind this success has undoubtedly been SSENSE’s appeal to well-educated, well-dressed, well-moneyed millennials (nearly 80% of their audience between 18 and 34). An audience that Fanny Damiette, Director of Brand Marketing Strategy, calls a “global niche” – one that’s culture is so based on digital that it is borderless.

The key to this appeal has been their editorial content. Intelligent, thoughtful writing on everything from art to architecture to music to pop culture – often not discussing fashion directly at all. Rather, using fashion as a lens through which to understand the world. It shines bright besides the dull and thinly veiled advertorials and self-promotional articles that have come to be called content and now flood the web. In fact, it shines bright next to much of the lifeless journalism that now makes it onto the news-stands. Damiette says: “those are creative writers. […] We don’t hire marketing people to write our content.”

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What has allowed the brand’s editorial arm to flourish has been an ever present and strong foundation in logistics and technology. All the more robust for having been built stone by stone by the three brothers since 2003. And this robust base is vital to the company’s success and ability to deliver.

However, having appointed Joerg Koch – founder and editor-in-chief of the hugely influential Berlin-based magazine 032c  – as editor-in-chief in 2015, SSENSE are clear about how they see themselves growing into the future. Koch lends the brand even more credibility and heft to attract talented writers and staff for the editorial side. For this content, as well as drawing in a large audience, also gives a brand, a brand which doesn’t have a product, a voice. An identity. An essence.

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Picture credit: © SSENSE