What to do when your small, independent fashion brand goes global? That was the dilemma that American Apparel faced last year. Since opening its first store only four years ago, the boy-next-door retailer has developed into quite a beast, currently employing 5,000 staff and owning over 140 outlets worldwide.
In December, the bosses fully embraced the big time and sold their quintessentially anti-corporate label to New York-based Endeavor Acquisition Corporation for $244m (€172m). Endeavor also offered to cover American Apparel’s $110m (€78m) debt.
Endeavor was always clear about its plans to float American Apparel on the US Stock Exchange and rumour has it that the brand will finally go public in December. The question is, what will happen to the company that famously manufactures all of its products under one roof in Los Angeles, and offers back rubs and complimentary English lessons to its often immigrant staff, as well as paying them well above the local minimum wage?
Studying the takeover, Joseph Teklits of US-based financial consultancy Integrated Corporate Relations (ICR) believes that shareholders would be foolish to change any of the important features of the American Apparel brand – including its controversially sexual advertisements (young girls on all fours and flashes of compromising razor burn have been used in the past, usually photographed by whoever happens to be around with a camera).
“Politically correct investors who are worried about American Apparel’s provocative campaigns will not buy into the company in the first place,” says Teklits. “Ordinary investors want to make money from their investment and know that provocative imagery is a key ingredient in the company’s success.” He cites Abercrombie & Fitch as an example of a retailer that has successfully managed to retain its risqué advertising strategy while also going public.
Amid plans for worldwide expansion, the need for capital was the main motive behind the sale. Despite CEO and founder Dov Charney’s commitment to maintaining the culture of the business, it will be interesting to see if one factory in downtown LA can cope with stocking the shelves of 800 planned new stores, and whether, with a potential tripling of staff, he can maintain the same sympathetic working conditions.
“We are purveyors of the highest standard of footwear possible,” says Bob Avery, owner of Oxford-based shoe shop Ducker & Son, before he checks himself. “Having said that, you are always learning.” Ducker & Son was established in 1898. They take around three bespoke commissions a week and manufacture around 100,000 off-the-rack shoes a year. The shop is decorated with leather-bound ledgers bearing the names of previous literary customers, such as Evelyn Waugh and JRR Tolkien.
When braving the autumn winds this month, Designworks has a little something to take your mind off the misery. The Japanese brand has let slip that its newest piece – a lightweight raincoat – is actually designed by a guest Belgian superstar designer. It will not reveal who, so give it some thought as you hide under it during the showers. Our money is on Branquinho.
Since the mid-1970s, Italian brand CP Company has generated a decent range of menswear staples, and has collected over 40,000 items of clothing dating back to the 19th century as a research tool at its HQ. Though its colour seems retro, the shape and weight of this V-neck is cutting edge.
The marriage of a fashion house with a sports label and the cross-pollination of outdoor urban brands is nothing new. Adidas pioneered the trend when it collaborated with Yohji Yamamoto back in 2002, spawning the Y-3 label. Then in 2005 Adidas signed Stella McCartney to design a range for its Sports Performance division that has been so successful her contract has been extended to 2010.
Adidas’s latest collaboration is with Porsche Design to produce luxury and functional sporting apparel and equipment in four categories: golf, running, tennis and driving. The colour palette is understated – beiges, browns and blacks teamed with high-technology fabrics.
Adidas AG raked in worldwide revenue of more than €10bn in 2006, and is an ever-growing competitive threat to rivals Nike and Puma – the latter of which will be interesting to watch with its new Gucci Group ties.
Hidden behind a velvet curtain and wearing charcoal waistcoats and white shirts, the in-house tailors at Tom Ford’s new Madison Avenue store are surely the best-dressed in Manhattan. With many labels trying to offer semi-customisation through to full bespoke services, Ford hopes to make this a feature in all international flagships, with London and Milan branches set to follow.
Every detail of a Ford suit is hand-finished and personalised, with hidden extras such as double-stitched lapel buttonholes. This Prince of Wales single-breasted blazer, like all blazers in the range, features a padded inside pocket for a Blackberry. While the lapels might be a little wide of the mark, Ford’s marketing skills are still razor sharp. He also does a smart line in walking boots.
You might think a pink-gold Santos is desirable, but Cartier eyewear is also revered. The Panthère model is so prized that earlier this month policemen in Germany had a warrant out on a gunman who attacked a man for his eyewear as he walked home from Hamtramck Labour Day Festival.
It is probably only on the Italian Riviera that women wear high heels to the beach. And if you too can’t bear flip-flops, Alessandro Oteri’s couture footwear should suffice. With shapes inspired by the coast of Portofino, the range is handmade in Italy and each pair is customised to the lady’s choice of material, height and ornamentation.
Paris label APC has dedicated fans the world over, but it seems to have found its natural home in Japan, where shoppers lap up the brand’s sharply functional style. When owner Jean Touitou decided it was time to freshen up the APC Homme store in Daikanyama, which has been open since 1992, he called on Tokyo’s favourite store designer, Masamichi Katayama.
“I already liked the shop as a customer,” says Katayama, “so the idea was to change it but not to change it too much.” It’s an ingenious reworking that has nearly doubled the floor space and unified a jumbled site. He connected the two existing buildings with a new garden entrance and kept the raw, industrial feel Tokyo boys have been so drawn to. The concrete breeze blocks that were a feature of the old store were retained – now earthquake-proofed and covered with glass; floor-to-ceiling metal shelves, which wouldn’t look out of place on a construction site, were added.
An extra floor – once a stock room – has been opened up, giving the store extra space for its a/w offerings which include cotton checked shirts and skinny black jeans. One building houses the main collection, the other is home to the Magasin Général, which has APc’s cultish denim, plus accessories and CDs.
Japanese men’s fashion is set go global thanks to new Tokyo-based online store Arica. Products will be sold from a bilingual website with sizes to suit the foreign market. Arica’s six-strong management team is headed by MD Seijiro Hiramoto and creative director Junji Tanigawa.
Why did you opt for an online store?
It’s a dream for Japanese designers to sell overseas, but it’s difficult and expensive. We were trying to think of the best way of telling the world about our favourite brands. We want the site to have the atmosphere and hospitality of a real store.
Do you think there is a worldwide market for Japanese fashion?
With so much on offer these days, people are looking for authenticity – things that can’t be copied overnight. Japanese silk, for example, has been developed over hundreds of years. That kind of attention to detail is woven into Japanese fashion and we hope it will resonate with men. We’re starting out with 32 brands and that number will increase.
Who is your target customer?
Our target customer could be any age and living anywhere in the world. Our prices range from $23 (€16) to $54,000 (€38,000). The Japanese use the word “iki” to describe something chic – our customers will be people who understand that sensibility.
What is your postage charge?
There will be a flat rate of ¥1200 (€7) worldwide. Each item will be wrapped in a furoshiki – a traditional Japanese wrapping cloth. We created our own furoshiki using material made from recycled plastic bottles.