Breezy, boho looks aren’t anything groundbreaking — but they’re a surefire trend to unroll to eager shoppers. Laid-back, cool line, Johnny Was has long purveyed this trend, weathering fads for 28 years. At the UBM Coterie tradeshow in September, chief executive officer Rob Trauber discussed the importance of authenticity and the benefits of selling wholesale and retail.
WWD: How would you describe the aesthetic of Johnny Was?
Rob Trauber: It’s very boho vintage. I would describe it as an elevated Free People or Anthropologie. It sits in that boho, modern, vintage realm. We’ve been around for 28 years — and we’ve been doing boho for 28 years. It’s now very trendy, but we’re not a trend-driven business, we just happen to be in the trend right now, but we’ll continue to do this for many years.
WWD: That heritage is important — a lot of consumers want authenticity.
R.T.: I would say our brand is one of the most authentic boho brands. Our price point is a little higher, we average about $200, but we go from $100 all the way up. What differentiates us is that we have a core audience that maybe starts at 30 to 35 [years old], and goes all the way up to their 70s.
We have a much broader audience because the appeal of what we do is effortless. It fits a lot of body types. Our size range goes from zero all the way through 16. We have a wide audience.
WWD: How do you distribute the line?
R.T.: We started off as a wholesale brand — over half of our business is still wholesale. Neiman Marcus is one of our largest accounts, and we have a wonderful business with them. We have 17 stores and are opening our 18th store in Boston: our first store in the Northeast for the brand. We are a California-based brand, and we’re very coastal. So [our primary locations are] Texas, California, Florida, very popular for Johnny Was. Arizona.
We’re going to target the Northeast now. Boston is going to be a wonderful laboratory for us. We’ll edit the assortment to address the needs of a colder weather climate.
WWD: How has having a retail business informed designs?
R.T.: I mentioned we’re a wholesale-based business originally. We’re in 1,500 accounts across the country, and we’re in Australia as well. So we do get a sense of what resonates with the consumer through those 1,500 accounts. And now that we have 1,800 stores though, we get to see more of what the brand appeal is for women. So they walk into our store and they get the whole experience, a 360-degree view.
The stores enable us to really blow out the categories, and offer broader price points. In our retail stores we get to test a lot of products. Right now, we’re testing lower price groups, linen groups. We’re launching a much bigger effort around jewelry and around bags.
When you walk into a Johnny Was store, you get to feel and live the brand. It should elevate everybody’s experience within Johnny Was.