12 visionaries who are changing the face of menswear
The men’s market continues to boom — but who’s driving it? Here, a look at the dozen people and brands setting the direction in the market today.
The influence of Kanye West spreads far and wide and it has for a while, but the fruits of his labor — whether ranting to be taken seriously by the fashion establishment or demanding more opportunities at Nike — are starting to materialize in a rare way. He’s helped mentor Virgil Abloh, who got the shot at Nike that West always wanted and will lead Louis Vuitton men’s; Fear of God’s Jerry Lorenzo, who is also set to work with Nike and continues to grow his brand, and designer Heron Preston, who’s becoming the go-to guy for musical artists wanting to build excitement around their merchandise.
And then there’s the power of his own brand, Yeezy, which he creates in partnership with Adidas. During 2017, West avoided formal public appearances, but his collection was still very active and popular. He released three new footwear models: the Calabasas Powerphase, the Waverunner 700 and the Yeezy 500s. And on the apparel side, he churned out a Calabasas capsule collection and released Yeezy Season 5. But after years of fighting to be a part of the fashion system and showing in New York and Paris, West opted out of a formal fashion show and instead presented his Yeezy Season 6 collection on his wife, Kim Kardashian, via paparazzi photos. He made this a bigger, more inclusive campaign by tapping influencers including Paris Hilton and Jordyn Woods to mimic Kardashian’s outfits and poses, and post these shots to their own Instagram accounts — for a brief moment the campaign was plastered over the 34th Street Herald Square subway station.
West also used the Yeezy Season 6 collection and his Yeezy Supply e-commerce site to test out different modes of selling. During the pre-sale, in order for customers to purchase the Yeezy 500 sneaker, which retails at $200, they had to buy them in a bundle with a hoodie and a pair of shorts, which brought the total to $620 or $760. Whether this was a means to sell more clothes or an attempt to see how much people would actually pay for his sneakers, West once again tested the boundaries of the market and as of now most of the items are sold out.
Last September, the NPD Group declared that, for the first time, Adidas overtook Jordan Brand as the number two U.S. footwear brand behind Nike, which still holds the number-one spot but is losing market share — Nike dropped from 39 percent of the market share for the first eight months of 2016 to 37 percent for the first eight months of 2017. A lot of this can be contributed to West, who has energized the Germany-based brand with his impactful activations, coveted product and his unrelenting will to do things differently. — Aria Hughes
Adidas is riding the Kanye Wave — plus all its other collaborations, too. While it still lags the leader, Nike, in terms of overall sales — $34 billion versus $24 billion — the German brand is making headway, particularly in North America.
While Nike has been struggling of late — its fourth-quarter profits fell 9 percent, with North American sales down 5 percent to $3.49 billion and net losses jumped to $921 million in the first quarter — Adidas saw an overall jump in operating profits from 41 million euros to 132 million euros in the fourth quarter on a 12 percent sales gain.
North America has been a particular hot spot for Adidas, with sales up 27 percent last year, and chief executive officer Kasper Rørsted is aiming to build a five-billion-euro business here by 2020. Although it would still be a fraction of Nike’s $15 billion North American business, the threat is real.
“I think we understood the ath-leisure part better than maybe some of our competitors do,” Rørsted said pointedly in reporting year-end results earlier this month. “There’s no doubt that some of the global trends today are coming more out of America than they are out of Europe, and idols like Pharrell Williams … or Kanye West have really helped us.”
Adidas snapped up West after an earlier five-year collaboration with Nike for sneakers ended in 2013. Two years later, Yeezy Season 1 debuted. While the apparel has had a mixed response, the footwear is a smashing success. The brand has also partnered with Williams on a popular footwear and apparel collection.
Adidas also has collaborated with other fashion-industry favorites, including Stella McCartney, Raf Simons, Alexander Wang and its longtime favorite, Yohji Yamamoto for its Y-3 collection.
In the case of several of these partnerships, the designers have reinterpreted some of Adidas’ most iconic models, notably the Stan Smith shoe that has become the everyday basic for the fashion community. The Raf Simons’ version, for example, was a particular favorite.
With all of these initiatives, Adidas’s cool quotient continues to rise. And while Rørsted is confident that sales will continue to rise, he expects the company’s bottom line to grow three to four times faster than the top line. “We want to have the right balance of growing market share and growing profitability. That is what we call winning,” he said. — Jean E. Palmieri
3. Mr Porter
Who would have thought seven years ago that one of the retailers driving men’s wear would be a London-based web site? Yet in that time Mr Porter has become some designers’ largest single retailer — and the site continues to gain momentum with consumers with its mix of lively content, fashion tips and quirky videos that address topics such as how to wear sweatpants without looking like a fool, or tracing the history of the tracksuit from sports field to mafia boss to runway. Mr Porter has proven without a doubt that men will buy high fashion online.
A magazine for modern men that also sells apparel and luxury watches, Mr Porter has created space that encourages customers to linger — and learn. It also tackles non-fashion subjects such as how to start a business, how to ask for a better salary or where to find the best wine lists in the world.
Mr Porter has also been an original content-maker from a merchandise perspective, teaming with the costume designer Arianne Phillips on stand-alone collections tied to Matthew Vaughn’s “Kingsman” films. Mr Porter takes care of all the sourcing and manufacturing and the on-screen wardrobe, filled with British labels and tailoring, is the same as the collection sold on the site.
“What you see on the film screen is what you see on the Mr Porter screen,” Toby Bateman, Mr Porter’s managing director, said last year ahead of the release of “Kingsman: The Golden Circle.” Since its launch in 2014, Kingsman has become one of the site’s top-performing luxury brands.
Last year, Mr Porter stretched its content-making to Mr P, a new collection of essentials and trend-led seasonal pieces designed, sourced, manufactured and distributed exclusively by the site. The idea was to create wardrobe building blocks and themed capsule collections to complement the hundreds of brands already on the site.
Mr Porter has also been testing the online appetite for hard luxury: A division of the Richemont-owned Yoox Net-a-porter Group, Mr Porter is one of very few web sites selling high-end watches to fashion clients, offering a mix of Richemont brands and others such as Tag Heuer, Bremont, Ressence and the Weiss Watch.
Next month, the site will partner with Cartier on a selection of Santos de Cartier timepieces. And ahead of Baselworld this month, Mr Porter upped the ante, offering one exclusive version from Bell & Ross’ new limited-edition BR-X1 Skeleton Tourbillon Sapphire collection. The price tag alone —$480,000, excluding sales tax — makes for a great read. — Samantha Conti
Anything rule-breaker Demna Gvasalia touches, since disrupting the scene with the arrival of Vetements in 2014, turns to fashion catnip. So it comes as no surprise that Balenciaga’s men’s label has captured the industry’s attention.
Up until Gvasalia’s arrival at the heritage house, which was founded in 1937, Balenciaga’s men’s line had remained in the shadows. (The company only introduced the category commercially in 2004.)
“Demna’s influence has been seen everywhere; his take on Balenciaga, particularly in men’s wear, you’ve seen it influence the entire industry as a whole,” said Roopal Patel, senior vice president of fashion director for Saks Fifth Avenue, who listed among the hot-ticket items everything from the iconic chunky Balenciaga sneaker and outerwear pieces like the anoraks, Windbreakers and puffer coats, to sweatshirts.
“Demna has been able to take the core elements of street style and tailoring and lifestyle and fuse them together for this modern-day man,” she said.
For Bruce Pask, men’s fashion director at Bergdorf Goodman and Neiman Marcus, Gvasalia has nailed “the perfect intersection of fashion and athletic, streetwear and designer.”
The centerpiece of Gvasalia’s debut men’s collection for the house in spring 2017 was a blown-up boxy take on an unfinished beige coat by Cristóbal Balenciaga he unearthed in the archive, with the designer yo-yoing between shrunken and gargantuan fits in the collection.
“He deftly understood that the men’s wear world was ready for this shift in proportion, having been in a trim, cropped, slim cycle for many years now, and that it was organically ready for a shift in the other direction, simply waiting for the appropriate instigator, the disruptor,” Pask said.
According to global fashion search platform Lyst, search volume for Balenciaga men’s wear has increased 140 percent in the three-year period from March 2015. The most popular items include the brand’s Triple S sneakers, with a Nineties-style exaggerated volume; the Speed Stretch sneakers and the Explorer belt bag.
Gvasalia — who, for his own label has developed a unique aesthetic based on strangely distorted proportions, but translated into a wardrobe of classic men’s and women’s wear staples — actually specialized in men’s tailoring when he studied fashion at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp, the famous fashion school that produced the likes of Dries Van Noten, Martin Margiela, Ann Demeulemeester, Haider Ackermann and Kris Van Assche.
Following Gvasalia’s hire, former Balenciaga ceo and president Isabelle Guichot told WWD that the brand was looking for “somebody that has a vision and [is] capable of reshuffling the cards.” Mission accomplished. — Katya Foreman
5. Virgil Abloh
By being named Monday to lead men’s design for Louis Vuitton, Virgil Abloh has truly hit the big time.
But he’s been a ubiquitous force in fashion for some time now. The designer, who studied engineering and architecture before becoming Kanye West’s creative director and then launching Off-White, almost seems to be trolling consumers with some of his collaborations — particularly his most recent ones that include a line of scrubs he designed with Equinox; two energy drinks, named “Blue Magic” and “Better than Botox,” that he cobranded with Wild & the Moon, and a wellness restaurant with locations in Paris and Dubai.
It’s hard to miss the Off-White branding, but it’s also hard to miss Abloh himself. When he’s not DJing under the pseudonym Flat White, he’s giving a lecture at Harvard, speaking on a panel with Jeff Koons, or screen printing T-shirts with fans at ComplexCon.
Once something or someone becomes omnipresent, it’s easy to forget its significance, but Abloh is having a real impact on the industry. That becomes apparent when Nike offers him creative license to iterate on 10 of its signature silhouettes, or when he wins a British Fashion Council award and the Council of Fashion Designers of America nominates him as the women’s and men’s wear designer of the year.
Abloh admits he has benefited from the work of West, Pharrell Williams and Sean “Diddy” Combs, but he’s put his foot on the gas and infiltrated spaces and institutions that haven’t always acknowledged streetwear — he currently has an exhibit at the Gagosian in London with pieces he’s worked on with Takashi Murakami. Abloh is teaching the industry what streetwear has always been, and the many other things it can be. — Aria Hughes
It’s unknown whether James Jebbia, who started Supreme, is a card-carrying member of the Council of Fashion Designers of America, but that doesn’t seem to matter. Following an expansive collaboration with Louis Vuitton and the sale of a minority stake of the business to the Carlyle Group — which valued Supreme at $1 billion — Jebbia is being acknowledged, whether he likes it or not, as a major fashion player. The CFDA has nominated him as the men’s wear designer of the year alongside Virgil Abloh, Raf Simons for Calvin Klein, Tom Ford and Thom Browne.
But the skate brand’s influence started long before the Louis Vuitton partnership. Kim Jones, the former designer for Vuitton’s men’s collection, was a fan of Supreme prior to working directly with the company, and long before the CFDA considered the brand worthy of recognition.
Jebbia started Supreme in 1994, and while it’s best known for its box logo T-shirt, the brand has always made quality ready-to-wear that stands the test of time. At one point its prudent, vertical business model, which consisted of producing limited runs of product that dropped throughout the season, was an anomaly. But now brands and retailers are attempting to re-create that type distribution schedule and give customers a reason to come back. And as for collaborations, Jebbia’s approach to partnering with brands, which have ranged from Nike and Brooks Brothers to A Bathing Ape, set the blueprint that many companies are following today.
Now that Supreme is no longer a niche player and it will inevitably grow further with help from the Carlyle, it’s yet to be determined whether the brand will still hold the same “cool” standing in the minds of its target audience. But if Supreme’s resale value is any indication — Grailed, the streetwear aftermarket site, named Supreme its best-selling brand in 2017 — its desirability factor doesn’t appear to be waning. — Aria Hughes
7. Tommy Hilfiger
It’s been a long and winding road from The People’s Place, the denim store in his hometown of Elmira, N.Y., that Tommy Hilfiger opened in 1969 at the age of 18.
He’s lived through the bankruptcy of that first company — at age 25 — watched as his own brand became a hip-hop sensation and then just as rapidly became uncool, built it back up again after it was sold and dealt with it being sold a second time to its current parent, PVH Corp.
And now, at the age of 67, he’s red-hot again.
Hilfiger, who over the course of his career has mingled with rock stars and celebrities, bought major artworks, traveled the world and lives in lavish homes in Greenwich, Conn., and Mustique, is riding the wave of the Nineties streetwear explosion that he dominated in that decade with his Tommy Jeans collection.
His resurgence has also been fueled by his collaboration with Gigi Hadid, which has been an unmitigated success, taking him from his preppy-with-a-twist American style into a whole new Millennial-fueled frenzy.
When the Tommy x Gigi collection debuted as Hilfiger’s first see-now-buy-now show in September 2016, it generated 900 percent increased traffic to tommy.com in the 48 hours following the show. There were 2.2 billion social media impressions surrounding the event, and the halo effect was double-digit sales growth in all women’s categories in every region. And that halo effect is impacting men’s wear as well.
In 2014, he got tennis star Rafael Nadal to strip down to his underwear when he was named an ambassador for Hilfiger’s underwear and tailored clothing. Earlier this month, the company named Lewis Hamilton, a fashion-loving British Formula One race car driver, to be the global brand ambassador for his men’s wear. The appointment is intended to drive growth of Hilfiger men’s worldwide and bring the next generation of fans to the brand.
Like Hadid, Hamilton is a social media maven with more than 17 million fans worldwide.
This also hints at Hilfiger’s tech savvy, which has helped the brand to stay young and spirited, relevant with pop culture and ahead of the pack with technological innovations such as artificial intelligence, a chatbot and the company’s Snap:Shop app.
“We embraced new technology and were not afraid to take risks,” he said. — Jean E. Palmieri
Heritage is hot and there are few American brands that can trace their history as far back as 1873. That was the year that Bavarian immigrant Levi Strauss and his business partner Jacob Davis patented the first blue jeans.
From those humble beginnings servicing California Gold Rushers with durable riveted pants was born a brand that today boasts sales of just under $5 billion.
While its core business remains men’s jeans, the company also saw substantial growth in its women’s business last year with sales up 24 percent, as well as tops, which jumped 35 percent on the strength of its ubiquitous trucker jacket, which celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2017. The popularity of that jacket is proof that classics can be reintroduced to a new generation and even the fickle Millennials respond to the originators of a trend.
Under the guidance of ceo Chip Bergh, who has helmed the brand since 2010, Levi’s has mined that popularity by collaborating with Millennial favorites including Supreme, Off-White, Vetements and, most recently, Air Jordan and Ovadia & Sons. “These things, they create a shortage mentality,” Bergh said when reporting year-end results last month. “They’re a must-have item. It creates a lot of buzz for the brand.”
Levi’s has also appealed to the young generation with several vintage and vintage-inspired offerings.
In a presentation at WWD’s CEO Summit last fall, Bergh told a tale about traveling through Europe during his college years and washing his Levi’s in the shower at a hostel in Germany. He took his wallet out of his pocket and laid it on the windowsill and hung his jeans up to dry before heading off to bed. He soon realized that he’d left his wallet in the shower and raced back into the bathroom. “The wallet was there, but the Levi’s were gone,” he said. “Levi’s were as good as cash back then.”
And still are today.
In 2015, the company partnered with Re/Done, a business that bought vintage Levi’s products, retailored them, relabeled them and sold them online at prices that could be as high as $300.
When Levi’s first got wind of the business, its first instinct was to file a lawsuit and shut it down. But James Curleigh, Levi’s president, suggested the brand partner with Re/Done instead. So Levi’s licensed Re/Done and even helps it source product.
Last fall, the brand launched Authorized Vintage after acquiring a collection of more than 50,000 pairs of archive-quality Levi’s jeans and trucker jackets from a former vintage store owner, Jeff Fuller, and “upcycling” them for the next generation. Not only has it allowed the brand to show its commitment to sustainability, but at the same time, it takes control of the secondhand market for its products.
“How many brands can you think of where consumers will pay more for product when it’s 50 years old than they will when it’s brand new,” Bergh asked. “It speaks to the power of the brand.”
That power is also evident in the success of its Levi’s Made & Crafted collection. Launched in 2009, the line offers premium-priced denim and sportswear as well as high-end replica designs from the company’s archives.
By hitting all the high spots, and capitalizing on the return of denim to the runways last season, Levi’s is proving that everything old is new again. — Jean E. Palmieri
9: The North Face
When The North Face named designer Tim Hamilton its head of global creative last fall, it marked the next step down the path for a brand whose roots are deep in the performance apparel and footwear arena.
Hamilton, who has worked for Polo Ralph Lauren, Gap and J. Crew and nabbed a Menswear Designer of the Year award from the CFDA in 2009, is best known for his modern take on sportswear. Since his eponymous business closed in 2015, he began consulting for outdoors labels, so the partnership isn’t that much of a stretch. The collaboration with Hamilton is expected to expand the brand’s reach beyond rock climbers and skiers to appeal more to the coveted Millennial consumer.
As North Face global president Arne Arens said when making the appointment: “Tim has pushed the boundaries of design and innovation by drawing inspiration from the unexpected. We see a lot potential in fusing our brand’s heritage with Tim’s fresh perspective.”
The partnership with Hamilton isn’t the only move The North Face has made outside its comfort zone. Over the past several years, it has collaborated with everyone from Comme des Garçons’s Junya Watanabe and Sacai to Supreme, Publish, Vans and others, effectively cementing its credibility with fashion insiders.
In reporting its fourth-quarter results last month, VF Corp., which owns the brand, said sales rose 8 percent overall in the period and it is expecting gains of 6 to 8 percent in fiscal 2019, driven by strong international sales in Europe and Asia. Sales in the Americas actually declined 1 percent as wholesale sales stumbled a bit.
Even so, Steve Rendle, chairman and ceo of VF, said he was very confident about The North Face business, citing the brand’s move to clear Amazon of unauthorized dealers of its products and the continued strong performance of its popular Urban Exploration collection. This line, which is targeted to an urban consumer, saw “strong sell-throughs” of its collaborations with Pendleton, Timberland, Vans and Supreme.
Rendle also cited some key initiatives within the brand’s wheelhouse of technical product including the new Summit Series, targeted to athletes, that he called a “positive halo for the brand.” — Jean E. Palmieri
Ever since its early days in 1909, British department store Selfridges has taken pride in its flair for retail theater. In today’s digital-first, attention-deficit culture, the retailer has set out to take the concept of retail experiences to a new level to keep consumers entertained — and willing to spend.
Ambitious storewide campaigns, exclusive collaborations with creatives and immersive pop-up spaces are some of the tricks Selfridges tends to pull out of its sleeve to bring the shop floor alive.
Earlier this year, it unveiled “Lamyland,” a pop-up space housed in the store’s newly opened Corner Store, by Michèle Lamy, the artist, wife and business partner of Rick Owens.
Lamy used the experiential space to channel her love of boxing and pose the question of what everyone is fighting for today, amidst Versace printed boxing shorts, Off-White sweatshirts featuring illustrations of men boxing and Craig Green T-shirts, all created exclusively for the space. In the meantime, London-based gym BXR set up a boxing ring inside the store, inviting customers for intimate classes.
In the coming months, the Corner Store will take on new life with additional designers taking over the space to showcase their works across men’s and women’s wear and take part in the ongoing fashion conversation.
Beyond moving product, Selfridges wants to use its platform to challenge the concept of luxury, and get customers talking. The store’s creative director Linda Hewson said Selfridges is looking at the “concentration and dilution” of luxury today, and also at its “uniqueness, ephemerality and transformative nature.” Through talks, events and retail, the store will explore issues around ownership — asking whether precious or expensive things even need to be owned — and exploring age and time as, potentially, the ultimate luxury. In April, the store is also planning to take over the Old Selfridges Hotel with a special exhibition that explores luxury themes.
When it’s not pondering the future of luxury, Selfridges also knows how to have fun. Last year it joined forces with A$AP Rocky, one of its most loyal customers, to create a New York-style bodega in its basement complete with a patchwork of the musician’s favorite things: everything from energy drinks and candies to a mix of brands designed by Rocky’s creative collective, including a skate-based label by the rapper A$AP Nast and an urban label by A$AP Twelvyy, known for its T-shirts and sweatshirts bearing the playful brand slogan.
The promise of A$AP Rocky serving clients behind the counter drew an array of streetwear aficionados — decked in Supreme and A-Cold-Wall — in search of limited-edition merchandise.
While it looks forward and embraces new luxury, including streetwear, the retailer also ensures that it services its more traditional clientele. One of its latest partnerships was a new shop-in-shop by Savile Row tailor Richard James in its formalwear department that offers made-to-measure tailoring, shirts and accessories. — Natalie Theodosi
Who said tailored clothing is dead? Suitsupply, which was founded by Fokke de Jong, has helped usher the Millennial shopper into suits with its customer-centric and vibrant shops and modern take on a sometimes stuffy category.
When de Jong was in college he was searching for a way to make some extra money. So he starting holding trunk shows in his dorm room selling men’s suits. “It was a little side business that helped pay the bills, but I also got insight into how the industry works.” He saw first-hand how many middlemen were involved in the process and believed he could do it better.
The first iteration of Suitsupply was online only and it wasn’t long until he started opening stores. “We were omnichannel before anybody used the word,” de Jong said.
Fast-forward to today and the business de Jong created in 2000 has expanded to just under 100 stores around the world, carving out a niche in the less-than-glamorous men’s tailored clothing business, and creating a multimillion-dollar business built on providing sharply priced suits with European styling. (The last volume estimate for the privately held firm was $190 million in 2015.)
Suits start at $399 and go to around $1,000 for off-the-rack. Made-to-measure is also available and start at $1,100 and goes up to $2,000 or higher depending upon the fabric. The suits are designed in-house of Italian fabrics, and production is in the Far East.
Its colorful stores — and equally colorful advertising campaigns — are in non-traditional locations, which allows the company to keep its prices down. Each store offers tailoring services, many of which can be done on the spot. “The stores worked work well and with the high-end product, service and tailors, it allows us to go into more locations that are off the beaten track — and economically more interesting,” he said.
Although the suits are reasonably priced, they’re also high quality. In 2011, a blind test by the Wall Street Journal pitted a $614 Suitsupply suit against a $3,625 Armani one and ranked them in a tie for first.
More than 75 percent of its sales today come from outside the Netherlands and 30 percent are still generated online. It entered the North American market in 2011 and now operates 32 stores here.
In 2015, it launched casualwear such as hoodies, sweatpants, sweaters and last year, it created a women’s division called Suistudio. Like the men’s wear, the women’s collection focuses primarily on the “power suit” at affordable prices with average retails at $399 to $699. While suits represent nearly 70 percent of the mix for women, the stores also offer knitwear, dresses, jumpsuits and eveningwear.
Suitsupply has attracted the attention of investors and last November, the company raised $360 million in capital from NPM Capital as well as a consortium of banks including ABN Amro, BNP Paribas, ING and Rabobank. The company is using the funds to refinance its existing debt as well as for further international expansion, investments in technology and retrofitting some of its older stores.
De Jong said the plan is to open 25 more stores in existing markets over the next six months, including several in the U.S. “Our concept is working all over the world and there are still a huge amount of white spots,” he said.
So the inevitable question arises: will de Jong consider going public? “I wouldn’t say never, but I’m still a happy camper being private,” he said. — Jean E. Palmieri
12. The Three As: AMI, APC and Acne
The streetwear category might be dominating the headlines, but the advanced contemporary space within men’s is thriving and AMI, APC and Acne are leaders in the category, offering men elevated basics with just the right touch of fashion — and investors are paying attention.
It’s no surprise that APC — as the category’s godfather — returned to the runway this season, coming off the brand’s 30th anniversary. But for founder Jean Touitou, it’s still early days. “I believe I just finished building the foundation and now we’re going to grow,” he said. The label’s strength lies in its consistency of vision in capturing that je ne sais quoi that defines understated French cool, and rendering it accessible.
Touitou created the label in 1987 as a reaction against the loud excess of Eighties fashion, with APC’s raw denim, macs, denim jackets, T-shirts and casual knits adopted by the fashion crowd as the new cult basic. (He likes to refer to the direction as “hysterically normal.”)
The brand’s moniker — based on the acronym for Atelier de Production et de Création, or Design and Production Workshop in English — encapsulates a collective spirit that preempted the arrival of labels like Acne. The brand’s current number of stores sits at around 70, with mail order and online complementing the mix, including wholesaling to e-tailers such as Net-a-porter, Mr Porter and Lyonstate. The plan, Touitou said, is to add a “two-digit” number of own stores in the near future. And that could include a special retail concept that he described as “an architectural idea….It’s a matter of industrializing architecture.”
Another brand also making waves is AMI Alexandre Mattiussi. Founded in 2011, the brand has positioned its storyline around being everybody’s friend, only its growing posse of followers reads more hipster than average Joe. (The label’s moniker nods to both founding designer Alexandre Mattiussi’s initials and the French word for friend.)
Mattiussi in his 20s cut his teeth in the studios in the LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton stable — he started at Dior, moved to Givenchy and ended his stint at Marc Jacobs. But driven by his business sense and personal frustrations, he set out to create something that filled the gap between fast fashion and luxury.
The focus is on wearability, only with that Parisian-cool put togetherness. “I try not to intellectualize it too much,” Mattiussi said.
The brand owns six stores — three in Paris and one each in Tokyo, London and Hong Kong, with more than 330 doors worldwide. For digital, the brand partnered with Farfetch two years ago — both on the platform and its Black & White service — and is seeing “amazing results worldwide,” he said.
Sweden’s Acne Studios is also making inroads and is among the hottest players in the advanced contemporary segment, offering a level of fashion that is more attainable than the traditional fashion houses — but no less compelling.
Founded in 1996, the Scandi-cool label, which quickly became famous for its raw denim jeans and Pistol leather ankle boots, based its whole concept on a collective merging of the worlds of design, art and fashion, with this idea of bringing basics to an artistic level.
Storytelling is another strongpoint. When it comes to the brand’s stores, Acne founder and creative director Jonny Johansson has also always had a knack for settling on unexpected locations. The brand’s Stockholm flagship, for instance, is in the former bank where hostages were taken in 1973 and the term “Stockholm Syndrome” was coined.
Upping its fashion quotient, the brand has been showing in Paris since 2013, and presented its latest rtw collection during couture week in January.
Acne Studios is also on the block, WWD recently learned, with the founders looking to sell a majority stake. Cofounders Johansson and Mikael Schiller have given a mandate to Goldman Sachs to look for buyers for their company, which has annual revenues in excess of 200 million euros. — Katya Foreman