Scott Sternberg’s Entireworld announced it is closing this week. In a heartfelt Instagram post replete with pictures of his childhood, Scott gave a heart-wrenching lament on how building something from scratch requires a different kind of skill than maintaining it over the long term.
Our first mention of Entireworld in our Future Commerce body of content was in a 2019 podcast entitled “Challenging the Design Normative”:
[Entireworld’s website is] discovery-oriented and sensory-based. I think that these guys are onto something and… they're the one blazing a trail of where e-commerce is heading.
People are tired of samey-samey. People want to discover, right? We want to figure things out; that's part of what makes you human. It’s a stark difference to what Amazon has perfected through rigorous conversion rate optimizations over 10 years to teach us how to be little monkeys who keep pressing the dopamine hit of the buy button.
No modern brand challenged best practices like Entireworld. I’m honestly surprised Sternberg stuck to his guns as long as he has. The design agency that built the brand and site experience for Entireworld closed their own doors in 2019 just after the launch. That design shop, HAWRAF, was renowned for challenging the norms in site design, often including easter eggs like ambient music, experiential interactions like puzzles or drawing widgets.
But for all its fun, it wasn’t terribly easy to shop. Sadly, their creative was more fun to talk about than it was to actually convert to a paying customer. When compared with contemporaries like Feat, Buck Mason, Mack Weldon, or Outdoor Voices, EW was inexpensive and accessible. They made no bold promises other than to be fun.
The Underworld liquidation site is decidedly anti-Entireworld. It’s easy to shop. It likes moody music. They stocked out quickly. What the site lacks in experience it made up for in moving merchandise. The Underworld site is easy to navigate and shop, and reportedly stocked out within hours of the announcement. According to sources, a refreshed drop of liquidation items will land again next week.
Perhaps they just did too much, too soon? Alex Greifeld, author of the No Best Practices newsletter, and frequent Future Commerce contributor, thinks they may got ahead of themselves:
A lot of designer-founded brands have a tendency to expand into new categories prematurely. This is a holdover from the old system, where large collections are developed each season but only 10-20% of styles are actually produced. This is a frustrating dynamic for designers–they want to produce everything. And with DTC, they can, but that becomes a mixed blessing.
From the delightful, to the artistic to the absurd, EW was the total package. Their mix of modern dance-centered ads, and collabs with Design Within Reach put the brand’s artists to the fore. Their absurdist tendencies included casting millennial hearthrobs like Kirsten Dunst, Jenny Slate, or Adam Scott across from Muboo, their mascot which looked like the unholy offspring between a bougainvillea and a candy corn.
To us, Entireworld will be a sacrificial lamb for post-Web 2.0 DTC generation of brands. We needed to break the mold, bend the rules, and challenge the norms. Entireworld did just that.
More from Future Commerce on Entireworld:
- Entireworld ranked at #9 on our C.A.R.L.Y. (Can't Afford Real Life Yet) brands in the 2020 Nine by Nine report.
- Our 2019 podcast “Challenging the Design Normative”
Our 2020 article on Insiders about Entireworld’s strategy, entitled “The Anti-Design Design Club”
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