No cape required: Five Four launches Marvel collaboration

No cape required: Five Four launches Marvel collaboration
A jacket in the debut Avengers: Age of Ultron capsule collection includes a comic book print lining, left, and an Avengers emblem detail, right. (Five Four)

Los Angeles-based menswear label Five Four is kicking off a stylish collaboration with Marvel Entertainment on April 1 that includes dress shirts, jackets, graphic T-shirts and accessories inspired by the studio's stable of superheroes, including Thor, Iron Man and Captain America.

Although the premise -- and the timing -- of the collection might make the cynical sort think it's some kind of April Fools' Day joke, it isn't. (Even though you won't be able to actually buy the clothes in a store -- but more on that in a minute.)

Far from cartoonish, the pieces in the debut Avengers: Age of Ultron capsule collection tread lightly in the inspiration department by serving up reversible shirts, outerwear pieces with hidden pockets, casual suit jackets with panels from an Iron Man comic book printed in the lining, generous lightweight scarves that wrap cape-like around the shoulders -- all shot through with the subtle recurring motif that consists of the capital letter A surrounded by a circle (any fanboy would probably be able to tell you that that's the emblem of the Avengers).

Based on the images we've seen, the pieces in the collection do a great job of elevating the superhero-inspired apparel and accessories category to something a bit more grownup. Think of it as clothes for the alter-ego with a dash of costumed hero peeking through.

The only hitch is that the pieces in the capsule collection are available only to members who sign up for the brand's Five Four Club subscription service, which costs $60 a month.

Although we here at All the Rage central don't usually have the bandwidth to cover the ever-expanding style-by-subscription category, Five Four is worth mentioning not only because the superhero genre shows no sign of slowing down at the box office and will almost certainly be a boon to both parties, but because of how the label has managed to successfully zig out of bricks-and-mortar retail while just about every online-only brand out there (Warby Parker and Bonobos come to mind) are zagging into some manner of physical retail.

Five Four was founded in 2002 by Andres Izquieta and Dee Murthy while both men were students at USC. The contemporary menswear brand sold through traditional retail channels (bricks-and-mortar stores and their online counterparts) for a decade. In 2012, the label decided to switch things up and add a subscription feature -- eventually forgoing physical retail altogether.

For the monthly $60 fee, each subscriber is shipped a package that contains some curated combination of pieces (a button-down shirt and sweater, for example, or a pea coat and scarf, or jeans and a Henley). This is followed by an email containing how-to-wear-it pointers and tips specific to the just-arrived pieces.

I recently saw Izquieta, who serves as Five Four's CEO, during New York Fashion Week, and he told me switching to a members-only model had been an unmitigated success for the label.

"We're crushing it," he said. "We've got over 75,000 active members, we've got a celebrity following and we're about to announce some pretty cool collaborations."

One of the collaborations, of course, is the Marvel deal. But given the brand's ability to think outside the box -- make that inside the shipping box -- we're intrigued at what else might be in the pipeline.

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