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."We want to grow business with the stores and then open our own Heavens Playground stores," Hayward said.
The company plans to open four Heavens Playground stores in major markets during the same two- to three-year period. The search for the location of the first U.S. flagship has taken more than a year and is centered in New York. Several bids have already been placed on retail spaces in Manhattan's SoHo shopping district, and management anticipates opening by fall 2008.
The format will not change from the company's current model, with Gsus-branded merchandise typically accounting for 70 percent of the store's product and the rest consisting of brands the company views as complementary to its character. Denim will retail for $135 to $195, T-shirts for $55 to $185 and outerwear will range from $140 to $425.
Steenstra acknowledged that, in contrast with Europe, U.S. boutique owners are quick to buy a label after seeing it and can be even quicker to drop the brand should it fail to generate business soon after hitting the shelves. The executives hope to change that mentality and prove the value of developing long-term relationships.
"We're looking for partners," Steenstra said. "I think that's going to be the solution for the retailers."
He noted that boutiques face increasing competition from fast-fashion giants such as Hennes & Mauritz. In addition, catering to the American consumer presents a challenge, Smit said.
"In Europe, you see people looking for things that nobody knows," Smit said. "Here, it's people looking for stuff they've already seen."
They'll also face stiff competition from brands such as Miss Sixty, Fornarina and Diesel.
Steenstra shuns traditional methods of marketing, describing celebrity-driven campaigns and paying for prominently placed billboards as "shooting with air." Instead, the company opts for more guerrilla-style tactics.
For now, brand awareness is being developed through the sponsorship of parties, DJs and bars, but another idea being considered for a future fashion week involves hosting a runway show on the bed of a truck.
"You need to be a little more creative," Steenstra said.
There'll be no rest for those headed to Europe for men's, as Paris just closed the gap with Milan. According to a provisional calendar released by the Chambre Syndicale, Paris Men's Week will now open a day earlier on January 16. See new highlights on the official lineup on WWD.com. #wwdnews #wwdfashion (📷: @kukukuba)
BREAKING: Jonathan Saunders is leaving @DVF. The designer has resigned from his position as chief creative officer of Diane von Furstenberg, the company said in a statement on Friday. At the time of his hire, von Furstenberg said Saunders’ arrival symbolized and facilitated her stepping back from the day-to-day duties that occupy the work of a full-time creative director. The British designer joined DVF in May 2016 and was in charge of all product categories. #wwdnews
For @versace_official’s spring ad campaign, the brand emphasized the archival prints from the spring tribute collection dedicated to the late Gianni Versace. Closing out the show were five of Gianni’s favorite models: Cindy, Naomi, Carla, Helena, and Claudia. Bowing on December 18, the new campaign is yet another tribute to supermodel-dom as the images by Steven Meisel are fronted by @iamnaomicampbell, @cturlington, @gisele and more. #wwdfashion
Four-time Oscar-nominated actress Annette Bening has been waiting 20 years to play Gloria Graham in "Film Stars Don't Die in Liverpool," which will be released on December 29. The movie about Graham – a Hollywood star known for her controversial relationship with a younger Englishman named Peter Turner – is based off a memoir Turned wrote. "She felt vulnerable to him, because she loved him, she really did love him. And anyone that we really truly are in love with, we re vulnerable to in a very deep way," said Bening. Read our full interview with the modern icon of an actress on WWD.com. #wwdeye (📷: @ninebagatelles; Styled by @cristinaehrlich)
The crisp white button down: a staple that can be dressed up or down and accessorized throughout the decades. Here, on a Art Basel-goer in 2017 on the left and on the iconic Audrey Hepburn in “Roman Holiday” in 1953 on the right. #tbt #wwdfashion (📷: Andrew Morales)
Known for her work with @victoriassecret, 25-year-old model @georgiafowler is raising her profile in Hollywood. Fowler stars in @vincecamuto’s holiday campaign, which launched in partnership with “Pitch Perfect 3.” “Almost every shoot with Vince Camuto, I’ve had to face a fear…It was definitely a challenge. I’m so grateful for it, though. I’ve always wanted to be a pop star, so that was the perfect chance,” Fowler said. Head to WWD.com to read about Fowler’s experience modeling, including at the #VSFashionShow, and her relationship with Nick Jonas. #wwdeye (📷: @jilliansollazzo)
EXCLUSIVE: Huda Kattan just became the first beauty influencer to land a major beauty deal. Kattan's business, @hudabeauty, has received a minority investment from private equity firm TSG Consumer Partners. The brand, which industry sources say is on track to do $200 million in retail sales for 2017, will receive support on product, retail and geographic expansion through the deal. Get all the details on the deal and read @_a_collins' interview with Kattan on WWD.com. Link in bio. (📷: @jgreenery) #wwdbeauty #wwdnews
Peruvian model @juanaburga_official – who is known for walking the runways of @rodarte, @viviennewestwood and @torybuch – is making the move to the big screen with drama “Los Últimos.” The film premiered in Argentina in November and arrives in the U.S. and Europe in 2018. On making the switch from modeling to acting, Burga told WWD: “It’s a completely different thing – a lot of people think it’s similar or try to connect things, especially like getting used to the camera or being looked at all the time or playing these different characrers, but film is a completely different story.” #wwdeye (📷: @jgreenery)
London’s newly opened @designmuseum will look back on the life and work of Azzedine Alaïa in a show that the designer helped to curate before he died of heart failure last month. The retrospective, which Alaïa had worked on with Mark Wilson, chief curator of the @groningermuseum, will look at the impact of his work worldwide. The show, “Azzedine Alaïa: The Couturier,” will run from May 10 to October 7. Read more about the exhibit on WWD.com #wwdnews #wwdfashion (📷: @zefashioninsider)