By  on January 28, 2008

Kidrobot is getting some gear.

The six-year-old company that spawned a cultlike following for its Asian-inspired "art toys," apparel and limited edition collectibles is collaborating with Schifter + Partners on a handbag and small accessories collection set to hit shelves for fall.

The pieces will be available in some 200 department and specialty stores nationwide, as well as in Kidrobot stores and on its Web site. The bags will be introduced to retailers during next month's market.

The company declined to give a sales projection, but industry sources said the collection should generate $10 million in first-year sales.

Kidrobot has doubled revenues from 2006 to 2007 and plans to do so again in 2008. In 2006, WWD reported that sales were estimated at $12 million.

"We were approached by many companies to do handbags, but I didn't think anyone would get what we did," said Kidrobot founder Paul Budnitz. "Then I saw the L.A.M.B. and Harajuku [Lovers] bags and we knew right away that this was the perfect fit. We knew Tim [Schifter] wouldn't restrict us at all, but push us even further than we could go."

In addition to L.A.M.B. and Harajuku Lovers — brands designed by Gwen Stefani, who is also a partner in the licensing firm — Schifter + Partners produces Jill Stuart handbags.

"We reach out to certain brands and a lot come to us," said Schifter, chairman and chief executive officer of Schifter + Partners. "We're pretty choosy. But we knew we could tap into that cult following and introduce highly creative, New York-based designers to a broader audience in department stores. We like to get involved with brands that are new and have a small niche, and help them become larger niche brands."

A lifestyle brand that in the last six years has added some apparel, a tome on its toys and ringtones to its repertoire, Kidrobot is no stranger to strategic partnerships. Since launching in 2002, the firm has collaborated on one-of-a-kind pieces with artists Dalek and Gary Baseman, designer Frank Kozik and music band Gorillaz.

Evidence of past partnerships include a glow-in-the-dark Kidrobot Volkswagen Rabbit, a Steuben glass version of the popular character Dunny and a children's TV show called "Yo Gaba Gaba," which is produced by Kidrobot's sole outside investor, Wild Brain. In February 2006, Budnitz sold a majority stake in Kidrobot to the digital animation company, which will help bring the Kidrobot brand to film and video.Kidrobot entered the fashion world in 2003 by creating a series of designer toys in collaboration with Visionaire magazine. Participating luxury brands included Marc Jacobs, Jil Sander and Hermès. In September 2006, the company launched a line of T-shirts, dresses, hooded sweatshirts and polos that sold exclusively at Barneys New York and Colette in Paris.

Like everything else the firm does, the Kidrobot apparel was launched in limited quantities. The brand expects to keep the accessories distribution equally as tight and update inventory often.

"Our products are always changing and our store is always changing its great design," Budnitz said. "There's almost nothing that we've done that hasn't sold out, eventually."

Most recently, Kidrobot created a neon snowboarding jacket with Burton and designed a floor in Peter Gatien's new Toronto nightclub, Circa, where it also opened a store.

Other Kirobot retail locations include New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and a new Miami outpost that opened during Art Basel in December. Two stores are slated to bow this year.

The Kidrobot accessories collection with Schifter + Partners includes two groups, one in nylon and the other in canvas. The nylon styles retail from $45 to $275 and feature the Kidrobot Grid and Toy Pile-up prints. The 12 styles include duffles, totes and backpacks on which three Kidrobot toys — the Smorkin' Labbit, Mini Munny and Yummy Breakfast — attach to the side. The accessories include cosmetics cases and electronic cases for cell phones and iPods.

The cotton canvas group retails from $25 to $125. Eight styles come available in black, brown and magenta. Each bag and small accessory is decorated with the Kidrobot print in reflective silver ink. One toy is attached to the side.

As for the future of Kidrobot, its designers and collaborators will be pursuing more multimedia channels. But the firm is keeping busy working on its current projects, which includes an exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York — three toys are currently on display and nine others have found homes in the museum's permanent collections.

"It's funny because with Kidrobot, I see hip-hop stars wearing our stuff oversized and then in Williamsburg [Brooklyn], I'll see the hipster kids wearing everything all shrunken," Budnitz said. "Then there's the soccer moms who walk into the store for their kids and end up leaving with a windbreaker."

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