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What do you do after starting Lululemon? Chip Wilson dives into his new venture Kit and Ace

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Images courtesy of Kit and Ace

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Images courtesy of Kit and Ace

 

What do you do after becoming a billionaire selling $100 yoga pants to women?  You sell a little less then 13.85% of the company for $845 million (leaving you with 13.85% worth almost $1.3 billion), walk away and start what you hope is the next big thing.

That is exactly what Chip Wilson, the 59 year old founder of Lululemon did the other week.  Wilson sold half his stake and resigned his seat on the board to focus his attention on the venture started by his wife and son.  Their new company Kit and Ace focuses on technical cashmere.  With t-shirts starting at $84 there is no question that this is luxury company through and through.  Wilson has invested $7 million in the new venture with plans to take on $300 million in debt that among other things will allow them to expand from the current 7 stores to 102 by 2018.  They expect to be doing $1 billion in sales within the next five years.

Wilson founded Lululemon in 1998 after selling snowboarding apparel company, Westbeach.  Popular in Japan, Westbeach had developed a fabric for long underwear that would form the basis for Luon, the source of those glute hugging yoga pants that women love and guys love to look at.  Having concluded that the letter L in a name convinced Japanese customers that a product was authentically American, he decided that his next venture would have three L’s in it.

Wilson, who had stepped into the background of Lululemon returned to the public scene when the too-shear yoga pants debacle hit.  His infamous video apologizing to the employees of Lululemon demonized him as an insensitive, uncaring jerk.  True or false, Wilson’s clashes with the board of directors did lead to drastic changes at the top of Lululemon’s corporate structure and a massive jump to its share price.  On more then one occasion he accused the company of not being progressive and had the offer of bringing the technical cashmere fabric to Lulu rebuffed.

Who will get the last laugh?  Perhaps Wilson.  He did manage to convince the world to buy overpriced yoga pants.  You might not want to bet against him hitting gold twice.  For those of you on the Shortees side of life, I wouldn’t bet on any products being designed to fit those of us in the 5’8″ and under club but we will have to see.  If you have tried any of their clothes let us know.

For a fascinating look at Chip Wilson and his journey read Amy Wallace’s article in the New York Times Magazine here.

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Are There To Many Stores In The USA? Thousands Are Closing.

The New Rules of Retail – Competing in the World’s Toughest Marketplace / Via Palgrave Macmillan / Robin Lewis and Michael Dart / ICSC calculation from Cushman & Wakefield, KSA and other sources

The New Rules of Retail – Competing in the World’s Toughest Marketplace / Via Palgrave Macmillan / Robin Lewis and Michael Dart / ICSC calculation from Cushman & Wakefield, KSA and other sources

Not the dreaded winter of retail death.  No! Arghhhhhhh!

Ok so maybe it’s not that bad but it despite the uptick in the economy and the stock market surging, there has been a recent shake up in the retail fashion world.  And the source may be…..to many stores.

Noooooo. Don’t take away my favorite mall.

America has 7.5 billion square feet of retail space.  Since 1980 we have seen an increase of 3.3 billion square feet.  That comes to 20 square feet of shopping space for every single US resident, including all those high fashion consuming illegal residents.  The next closest country by retail space is the U.K. with a whopping 3 square feet per person, followed by France and Brazil at 2 and Germany at 1.  Yet another reason to be glad we aren’t German.

Go America, an extra, unnecessary 17 square feet of shopping space per person.  Who says we aren’t world leaders.

Oh and that number only includes gross leasable space, not freestanding retailers so the number is actually way bigger.

So what is the cause to the recent spate of retail closings and bankrupcies?  Why have more then 1,000 apparel and accessory stores closed or are on their last tottering legs? What has caused Wet Seal, Delia’s, DEB Shops, C. Wonder, Gap’s Piperlime, Kate Spade Saturday, Jones New York, and Caché to all close or go bankrupt within the past two months? The answer for most of them is….. to many stores.  Yes we have to many stores.

We have a glut of retail space and too many store options.  Sure we all like having choice.  Yes we like being able to express our individual style and personality by dressing differently from each other, or in most cases dressing just like a group that we want to be indetified with but unlike other groups.  Oh you wear Lucy to the gym, I only wear Lululemon.

As wonderful as choice is, sometimes there is just to much.  That doesn’t mean it’s bad to have 27 different tank tees to choose from.  It just means the free market can’t support 27 different retailers who all want to sell something similar.  If one company can’t keep up with the latest trends and demands they may face being pushed out of the marketplace by a faster, or more popular competitor.  At the end of the day, we just can’t support 20+ square feet of retail space per person.  Ironically, as quickly as those spaces are being vacated there are other retailers just waiting to snap them up.  There seems to be no stopping the desire for expansion.  There is actually demand for more space from retailers then we currently have.

Now in some cases such as Gap’s Piperlime and Kate Spade Saturday, their parent companies want to do away with smaller scale disctractions and focus on their primary brands.  If something can’t grow fast enough with high enough margins then cut and run and focus on what you know works.  I wish I could say a $100 million business like Piperlime was a distraction and has to go.  Oh to have such problems.

So what is going to happen next.  Hold on as even more stores close down.  Perhaps even one of your favorites.  But don’t worry.  There will be a new H&M or Zara or Wallmart to take their place.  The engines of commerce will keep on rolling.

For an interesting look at the issue check out Sapna Maheshwari’s take on the issue on buzzfeed here.

 

American Apparel marches on with a new CEO. Edgy but not as overtly sexual.

Source: American Apparel

Source: American Apparel

Anyone who has been following the apparel industry in North America (if you can even say there is enough manufacturing left to call it an industry) knows the story of American Apparel.  Slightly kooky CEO/founder builds the largest garment manufacturing operation on the continent through the savvy use of sexually charged images targeted at teens and young adults.  Wildly successful company faces all sorts of financial challenges and more then once teeters on the edge of bankruptcy.  Questionable CEO is repeatedly accused of sexual harassment and bizarre behavior until his is finally driven from the company.

It sounds like a soap opera and certainly will eventually be turned into a James Franco vehicle for him to once again channel his inner oddball.  In the meantime hudreds of millions of dollars in revenue continue to roll in and it is now the responsibility of new CEO Paula Schneider to create some sort of order out of the chaos.  Schneider recently gave her first public interview to Bloomberg and the headline that has been all over the internet for the past day, edgy but with less skin.

By Matt Townsend at Bloomberg

Paula Schneider, American Apparel Inc.’s new chief executive officer, wants the brand to be as provocative as it was under expelled founder Dov Charney. Just with less skin.

“It doesn’t have to be overtly sexual,” Schneider said in her first wide-ranging interview. “There’s a way to tell our story where it’s not offensive. It is an edgy brand. And it will continue to be an edgy brand.”

Schneider, an apparel industry veteran who has led private-equity backed companies and ran the swimwear division at Warnaco Group Inc., has been in the job only a month and is still formulating her strategy. But it’s already clear that she wants to build on the battered chain’s underlying strengths.

To read the full article go to: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-02-06/american-apparel-ceo-wants-less-skin-but-isn-t-afraid-to-be-edgy

Is menswear going to the mountains?

Men's jacket by Aether, source Aether

Men’s jacket by Aether, source Aether

Perhaps there is hope for those who can’t seem to find anything to relate to fashion wise when they scan the latest pics from the runway or pursue  the ads in the latest edition of GQ.  I know every time I pick up a fashion magazine I shake my head wondering what tiny percentage of the population is actually buying the looks I see.  Not 99% of the guys I know.

One subset of the fashion universe that has slowly been coming back are looks based on heritage/vintage styles along with more tactical and outdoors performance based looks.  The bonus to most of these styles, they hold up well to the elements and make you look like a man, not a dandy.

Rebecca May Jonson over at The Business of Fashion took a look at the topic today in A Survivalist Streak in Menswear

From triple seam sealed Gore-tex and ballistic nylon to shearling vests and stylish axes, why are men buying fashion fit for surviving the apocalypse?

Dubbed a “snowpocalypse” by sensational American media outlets, a recent winter storm in the US prompted New York City mayor Bill Blasio to declare a state of emergency, ban cars from the streets and shut down the city’s subway for the first time in history. The snow never really materialised (only 5 inches were recorded in Manhattan’s Central Park) but politicians and consumers alike responded like doomsday survivalists, battening down the hatches in preparation for apocalypse.

In fashion, amidst an uncertain climate — geopolitically and economically, as well as literally — it seems like menswear has taken on a survivalist streak too. “It’s a brave new world. We are in a different climate both politically and meteorologically,” agreed men’s fashion consultant Nick Wooster.

To read the full article go to: http://www.businessoffashion.com/2015/02/survivalist-streak-menswear.html

 

Target shows love for plus size women.

Ava & Viv by Target

Ava & Viv by Target

The average women wears a size 14.  More then half of the population is overweight.  That is a lot of potential plus sized customers.  Despite this fact, almost the entire fashion industry ignores this reality, and the $17.5  billion in annual sales plus-size women produce.  Starting mid-February Target, yes that Target, is going tackle the problem head on.  They will be launching a new 90 piece collection designed in-house specifically for today’s full figured women.

The new line, named Ava & Viv will feature basics and statement pieces in sizes 14-26.  Hats off to Target.  How this market has been so under-served for so long I have no idea.  It is one of those problems and solutions that is so obvious, so in your face that its shocking so few people try to tackle it.  It reminds me of another under-served but giant market, short men. Oh wait, someone is taking on that problem, me (www.originalshortees.com).

I’ve gone shopping with women who wear sizes that have two digits in them.  It’s a frustration process.  The options are incredibly limited, the styles and generally atrocious and unflattering and they are often designed with little thought to how plus size customers are really shaped.

Target isn’t just solving a clothing problem for today’s women.  Besides the revenue potential this line can generate, they know that today’s plus size women is also a girlfriend, wife, mother, homeowner.  If they can give them a genuine reason to come into the store their cart is not going to hit the checkout line with just a pair of pants.  Toilet paper, soap, cleaning supplies, books, beauty products, groceries.  Customers coming in to look for new clothes are going to buy more of everything Target has to offer.  And that is some pretty smart business.

Read more about it at: http://www.forbes.com/sites/barbarathau/2015/01/27/why-targets-new-plus-sized-line-could-redefine-17-5-billion-underserved-market/

The Gap drops Piperlime

piperlime logoGap logo

In 1969 Don Fisher started The Gap for a simple reason.  He could not find jeans that fit (sounds familiar).  Today The Gap consists of 6 brands, almost 3,700 stores, 150,000 employees and more than $16 billion in revenue.  Soon enough The Gap will be back down to 5 brands.

Gap announced that is will be dropping its Piperlime brand and focusing on continuing to grow its Athleta brand, a direct competitor to industry leader Lululemon, along with reinvigorating its namesake The Gap, Banana Republic and Old Navy brands.  Piperlime, with only $100 million in revenues represents a tiny drop in the bucket for The Gap.  Hard to believe that a $100 brand can be considered a throw away, drop in the bucket.

This isn’t the first time The Gap has closed or sold off another brand.  Anyone remember Hemisphere or Forth & Towne?  Or that The Gap used to own Pottery Barn?

What Label is that? Will Men Buy The Same Brands Their Girlfriend Wears?

Looks from Michael Kors Autumn/Winter '14 Mens Collection | Source: Michael Kors

Looks from Michael Kors Autumn/Winter ’14 Mens Collection | Source: Michael Kors

The menswear market is growing.  Faster then women’s.  Will today’s average guy be willing to slap his girlfriends label on his shirt?  We’re betting the average guy doesn’t know who Michael Kors or Tory Burch is.  And those that do are willing to put on whatever their wife or girlfriend buys them, just so long as they don’t have to go to the mall to try it on.  The upscale men’s fashion market in the US is small.  For all the blogs and TV coverage about fashion, most men don’t care.  They want basics that make them look like they belong.  Most men don’t want anything that is going to stand out to much and the smaller percentage that do, don’t want to be to loud and overstated.  Just look good and have a dash of something that will garner a compliment.  Sure there will always be a small fashion forward market and yes, it will generate billions for the luxury houses and brands that capture it but it will still make up a small percentage of the menswear sold.  And for today’s shorter man, forget it.  The odds of any of the major fashion brands catering to us is slim to none.  Perhaps if you are extra lean and closer to the 5’7″-5’8″ mark you can squeeze into a small, otherwise you’re out of luck.

NEW YORK, United States — When Michael Kors’ 22,000-square-foot flagship opens at 520 Broadway in Soho this December, there will be a floor dedicated to accessories and fragrances, another to women’s fashion and shoes and another, entirely stocked with menswear, kicking off the multi-billion-dollar brand’s foray into the men’s market. “From there, we will begin to test free-standing men’s stores next year and believe that there may be the potential for as many as 500 men’s stores worldwide over the long term,” said Michael Kors chairman and CEO John Idol on an earnings call in August. The company projects its men’s business will generate $1 billion in revenue by 2017.

By Lauren Sherman, Dec 15, 2014 at Business of Fashion.

Read the rest at: http://www.businessoffashion.com/2014/12/womenswear-brands-make-play-mens-market.html

Men’s bottoms never looked so warm and snugly. If only your pants were made from Afghan blankets.

 

Lord von Schmitt

Lord von Schmitt

It’s hard to find words to describe this discovery.  Fortunately a picture says a thousand words and these pictures are doozies.

Lord von Schmitt

Lord von Schmitt

From boredpanda:

Crochet’s not just for scarves and sweaters anymore. Schuyler Ellers, who runs the Lord von Schmitt Etsy shop, creates dazzlingly colorful patterned crochet shorts out of recycled materials that are sure to please both the wearer and their stunned beholders (man or woman).

Ellers embraces every style out there, from form-fitting booty shorts to extravagant bell-bottom pants. Most of these fabulous pieces are made of recycled vintage crochet afghans; according to Ellers’ shop, “Afghan blankets are original pieces of folk art, hand made by artisans across America since the 1960’s and well before. With scissors and a sewing machine I transform vintage crochets into wearable sculpture!”

Read the entire post and see additional looks at: http://www.boredpanda.com/crochet-shorts-schuyler-ellers-lord-von-schmitt/

Lord von Schmitt

Lord von Schmitt

Lord von Schmitt

Lord von Schmitt

Life for a NBA rookie: Welcome to The Big Leagues

<strong>A LEG UP</strong> Spencer Dinwiddie of the Detroit Pistons during a down moment before the N.B.A.'s rookie photo shoot.

  Photo by Eric White
  Quotes by Sarah Lyall in Tmagazine blogs from the New York Times

A killer three-pointer no longer cuts it in the world of pro basketball. To succeed as a multimillion-dollar brand, an athlete needs business savvy, fashion know-how and good table manners. Welcome to the N.B.A.’s other training camp.

They had heard a succession of horrifying tales about drug addiction, alcohol abuse and women of ill repute who hang around hotel lobbies in unfamiliar cities. They had been told how to seize control of their new fortunes, how to distinguish genuine friends from opportunistic hangers-on and how to nimbly sidestep tricky questions in interviews. And now, as part of a program to help them prepare for the most seismic transformation of their lives, members of the National Basketball Association’s rookie class of 2014 were assembled in a conference room in a hotel in Florham Park, N.J., being lectured on a crucial part of their new job: personal style.

It’s hard to be a newly minted multi-millionaire newly drafted into the NBA.  Fame, fortune, women and of course lots and lots of stylish new clothes and accompanying bling.  Once we are done feeling bad for these unfortunate young men we can appreciate the attempt the league is making at helping them avoid some of the pitfalls of those who have come before them.  Granted that will deny us the pleasure of reading about another wealthy, famous person crashing back to reality with the rest of us but really it is a good thing.  The reality is sports stars are role models and aspirational figures for today’s boys and young men.  If our sports stars learn to surround themselves with positive influences, save and invest their money wisely and represent themselves as positive figures who deserve to be emulated then perhaps everyone wins.

One of the interesting topics that this crop of rookies is taught is how to develop a personal style.  One that projects the image that the league and all those eager prospective sponsors want to be associated with.  The advice is appropriate not just for budding NBA stars but for anyone who wants to control the image they project along with spending their wardrobe budget wisely.  According to celebrity stylist Rachel Johnson who lectured at this years meeting:

Every gentleman should have a peacoat, a raincoat, a varsity jacket and an overcoat, she said; also a blue suit, a gray suit and a black suit. Cargo pants are versatile and can be dressed up to look fancier than they are. You can mix and match; the navy jacket will look just fine with the black pants. Do not use the same Irish Spring soap on your face that you use under your arms. When you leave the house, throw on a classic watch and your signature fragrance, and assume that you are being observed at all times.

Some sound advice.  You don’t need a closet full of custom suits and enough pants and shirts to risk breaking the clothes rack along with your bank account.  The right combination of key pieces goes a long way to looking like you were just drafted into the big leagues.

Read the rest of the article at:

http://tmagazine.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/09/11/nba-rookie-camp-celtics-bulls-76ers/?smid=pl-share

Inexpensive suits that fit like an expensive custom suit. Is it possible?

It’s nice to see that some attention is finally being paid to developing nice suits that don’t cost more then the average guy earns in a month.  For your typical starting fresh out of school investment banker this may be an entry level suit but for the average guy this is probably the most expensive suit he will ever own.  Most men find their one and only suit at a local large department store or perhaps one of a small handful of national specialized chains.  A few hundred dollars and you can manage the average wedding, funeral or job interview.  The problem is most of these suits are to big, baggy and unflattering.  Take a closer look around at the next wedding you are invited to.  Yes the men can “get by” but if you really start evaluating the fit and cut of their suits your perspective will never be the same.

From the September 23, 2014 Wall Street Journal online:

The starter suit is not what it used to be. A generation ago, a man without a great deal of means—whether he was embarking on his first job or attending his first wedding—had to settle for boxy cuts in rayon and wool-blends from departments stores. But beginning a decade ago and ramping up over the past five years, there has been a veritable revolution in men’s suiting priced under $1,000. Brands like J. Crew, Club Monaco and Suitsupply have invested in fine Italian wools, slimmer cuts and refined construction to produce moderately priced suits that offer men something similar to, and occasionally indistinguishable from, their upscale counterparts.

Read the rest of the article  here:  http://online.wsj.com/articles/the-reinvention-of-the-entry-level-suit-1411153710

Have any of our fellow short men tried any of these yet?  If so let us know your opinion on how well they work for today’s shorter man or are we out of luck once again.

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