Custo Barcelona founder Custo Dalmau seems blissfully oblivious that the world is in the middle of an economic downturn.
After all, there’s nothing but growth on the horizon for the 80 million euro, or $124 million at current exchange, brand, which has been enjoying 5 to 10 percent annual increases for the last decade. Dalmau specifically has an eye on growing Custo Barcelona’s U.S. retail platform with more of its own retail doors, additional product categories and even a new franchise strategy.
Perhaps it’s the brand’s colorful whimsy that is welcome in a down economy, or the relatively cheap prices for a European label (averaging $80 at wholesale), but the 27-year-old Spanish firm seems happily isolated from the gray pessimism of the rest of the industry.
“Our customers say they feel very happy when they wear our T-shirts,” Dalmau said. “They create a mood.”
Since launching in the U.S. a decade ago, Custo has found a home in more than 250 wholesale doors, including Saks Fifth Avenue and Nordstrom. Custo opened its first U.S. shop seven years ago, and the company is stepping up the pace of its store openings, with four so far this year and four more to come by the end of the year, for 20 total.
But this year’s rollout, in cities that included New York and Miami, is just the beginning. Custo is coordinating a plan to franchise its retail operations in the U.S. The company hopes to have a deal in place by the end of the year, which will enable the brand to roll out about another 20 stores in the U.S. next year.
“We’d never considered franchises here before now,” Dalmau said. “But it’s a slow process opening stores on our own.”
Franchised shops closer to Custo’s headquarters in Europe could be the next step, said the company.
Custo has about 60 stores worldwide. While it currently owns its European and U.S. stores, the company already has licensed partnerships in other regions and countries, including Columbia, Brazil, Southeast Asia and the Middle East. Growth is booming, thanks to these partnerships. For example, between 2009 and 2010, Brazil is on track to get eight to 10 stores, and 20 more units are set to open in the Middle East. Custo added that hopeful partners regularly contact the brand about expanding into additional countries, such as Argentina. The company is on track to reach at least 100 stores globally by 2010.
One thing Custo has found is that warmer climates favor the brand. For example, business in Italy is better than business in Sweden, and business in Las Vegas is better than business in Chicago.
“It’s a colorful brand, and color goes directly with the sun,” Dalmau said. “America for us is a difficult market to figure out, because the South is much easier than the North.”
That’s not stopping the company from opening at least three stores in New York alone, in addition to openings in California and Miami.
The average store in the U.S. is about 1,400 square feet, but as the brand adds additional product categories — including sunglasses in September, fragrance in October, swimsuits for resort and watches in the near future — the stores likely will grow to around 2,000 square feet.
One of the brand’s strategies to beat the lackluster U.S. economy is targeting tourist-frequented retail areas. In the U.S., the brand is priced less expensively than it is in Europe, given the weakness of the dollar, so international tourists are taking advantage of the bargains they are finding in the U.S. stores.
The well-known aesthetic has created an opportunity for Dalmau to apply his designs to other ventures, from the Perrier bottles in Europe to furniture (restyling two historic chairs by the Gruppo Industriale Busnelli) and hotel interior design (Capricho Residences on the Mexican Caribbean).
Pivotal to Custo’s success has been its relative indifference to trends, instead focusing on the DNA it has developed over the last 27 years.
“Sometimes trends help us, and sometimes they hurt us, but not following trends is probably the key to lasting in this market,” Dalmau said.�
Taking the final spot on the mens’ portion of New York Fashion Week calendar next month will be none other than @tomford. Though he’s shown his men’s wear in New York in the past, this will mark the first time the designer has shown his men’s collection alone during New York Fashion Week: Men’s. His runway show will debut on February 6 at the Park Avenue Armory. #wwdfashion
London-based couture house @ralphandrusso has certainly been in the spotlight, having its dresses worn by @beyonce, Angelina Jolie, Meghan Markle in her engagement photos and more. For couture, Tamara Ralph focused on ornamentation — think: feathers with chain mail, jet embroidery and clusters of pearls and crystals. See the rest of the collection on WWD.com #wwdfashion #couture (📷: @giovanni_giannoni_photo)
Minnie Mouse celebrated her 90th birthday by getting her own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. For her celebratory luncheon, @coach’s creative director @stuartvevers dressed her in a custom made prairie dress, complete with Vever’s take on the polka dot – black sequined versions – under a cropped motorcycle jacket. The designer also put his own mark on Minnie’s classic red shoes, infusing the color with sparkles and adding some Coach crystals. “We chose colors that were very Minnie and also represented quintessential Coach elements,” said Vevers. #wwdfashion #nationalpolkadotday (📷: George Chinsee)
@nickjonas is unveiling his first-ever apparel collection through a partnership with John Varvatos. The limited-edition capsule, which makes its debut in spring, also marks the first time the designer has collaborated with anyone on a line. “The process in working with Nick is amazing. It’s inspiring to be around someone who is not only connected with the trade that they do, but also with what’s happening in the environment around him, and how that connects to what we do with style,” said Varvatos. (RG: @johnvarvatos) #wwdfashion
@margotrobbie steps out onto the red carpet wearing @miumiu. The actress is nominated for “Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role” in “I, Tonya” at the #SagAwards. (📷: Stewart Cook) #wwdfashion
For @massimogiorgetti of @msgm, the Nineties are his favorite decade. “They had a huge impact on my personal growth. What I like of the Nineties is that they are not so precise in terms of style as other decades…there was actually a bit of everything,” he said. As seen on MSGM’s Spring 2018 show: tie-dye and a bit of grunge, two styles that are synonymous with the decade #wwdfashion #wwddecades (📷: @kukukuba)