A feeling of hustle pervades the offices of Rue La La, an invitation-only online store headquartered at 20 Channel Street in Boston’s Seaport District.
In the company’s custom studio, indie pop bands MGMT and Phoenix blare over the surround sound as a photographer snaps photos of a model donning a hot pink mini-dress. Two women in charge of hair and makeup dash back and forth between the model and the art director’s computer screen to see how the shoot is coming along.
“We schedule photo shoots two to three days per week, and within those days, we’re shooting between 16 and 18 events per day” for both men’s and women’s products, said Rue La La’s studio manager Joseph Laviolette. “So at day’s end, that’s over 30 photo shoots.”
The urgency makes sense.
The online store operates under the assumption that consumers buy more when feeling pressured. Rue La La members have access to brand name sale boutiques, with the catch that each sale is only open for a brief period of time. In addition to clothes, shoes, handbags, and accessories, the retailer sells home goods, food, wine, and even travel deals.
At the Boston offices, Rue La La employs about 450 people who are involved in every aspect of the site — from buying and marketing, to copy-writing, finance, customer service, and increasingly, technology.
The fast-paced atmosphere might seem stressful to some, but Laviolette says the scrappy side of the retail industry is what makes his job exciting.
He’s been at Rue La La for 4.5 years, and says his strong opinion comes in handy when planning a shoot’s color palette or pleasing clients like Calvin Klein or Burberry. Pointing to the various props he’s used over the years to add texture to photo shoots — palm fronds, ladders, old windows, umbrellas, and even skis — Laviolette said, “Working behind the scenes, you know the effort it takes, but this is just straight fun.”
Rue La La’s website is updated two times per day at 11 a.m. and 3 p.m., and each photo shoot makes it to the site within 5 to 7 days of being shot.
With such rapid turnover, Rue La La has increasingly focused on beefing up its team of software engineers, use experience designers, and platform architects, especially in Boston. In 2015, the company upped its tech staff by 50 percent.
“We’re primarily a tech company,” said Trisha Spillane, Rue La La’s public relations and brand communications director. “People forget that.”
To attract talent, Rue La La offers employees fun perks like “Bagel Fridays,” “Wine Wednesdays,” and sample sales that can get pretty rowdy, according to Spillane. Workers also get two days off per year for volunteerism, and can partake in book clubs and running groups.
Bruce Zambrowicz, the director of talent acquisition, said the retailer is currently hiring for 34 positions — largely on the tech side.
Calling Rue La La Boston’s “best-kept secret,” Zambrowicz said members are purchasing products “at the speed of Amazon,” a feat which requires extremely talented technology workers.
“We’re no different than any other tech company in Boston,” Zambrowicz said. “But we’re consumer-facing. What we do here is designed to be seen every day. That makes it very compelling.”