By  on May 3, 2007

Gsus Industries, the Dutch company launched in 1993 as a wholesale and retail operation, is preparing to spread the brand's gospel in the U.S.

In its beginnings, the company showcased the Gsus-branded streetwear collection in a store christened Heavens Playground. Since then, the Gsus brand has grown to be distributed to 2,000 doors and the Heavens Playground format has expanded to 14 boutiques in 10 countries, including Japan, Russia and the United Arab Emirates. Gsus Industries is now a $60 million business. The U.S., however, represents the brand's greatest opportunity — and likely its biggest challenge.

"America is challenging, but is important because the whole world is looking at it," chief executive officer Peter Steenstra said in an interview at the company's new Garment District showroom in Manhattan.

Steenstra has a passion for entrepreneurship. He left a corporate career with IBM to jump into the world of fashion and retail, becoming partners with designers Jan Schrijver and Angelique Berkhout, who is his wife, and opening their first store in Arnhem in the summer of 1993.

The transition between these seemingly disparate careers was a natural one, said Steenstra, who characterized IBM as the place where he proved himself and earned his management stripes.

"If you're an entrepreneur, you make it work," he said.

Steenstra and his U.S. management team understand that making it in the U.S. will be a step-by-step process. They kicked off the effort last July, opening showrooms in Los Angeles and New York. Six months ago, the company's first North American store launched in Vancouver. Corey Hayward, vice president for Gsus USA, said the U.S. headquarters has been moved to New York from Los Angeles to better position Gsus as a global brand.

"There's more visibility here and New York is more international," Hayward said.

Expansion efforts will occur both on the retail and wholesale fronts. The Gsus brand is sold in about 100 doors in the U.S., including Villians in San Francisco and Emerald Rose in New York. Peter Smit, president of Gsus USA, and Hayward intend to expand to 200 to 300 doors over the next two to three years.

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