By  on September 14, 2011

Kellwood Co. wants to rock at retail.

The parent company of Vince, Baby Phat and Adam will launch a new mall-based specialty retail concept at the end of the year called Lamb & Flag. The chain will target a core demographic of 18- to 24-year-olds with a rock ’n’ roll-tinged aesthetic. The stores will carry both men’s and women’s Lamb & Flag collections in addition to a range of complementary third-party brands.

“It’s a rock look but not Gothic. It’s a bit cleaner than that and more contemporary. We want it to be mainstream but with an edge,” said Michael Kramer, president and chief executive officer of St. Louis-based Kellwood, describing the new brand’s traits. “We’re calling the concept ‘beautiful rebellion.’ If you have Hollister on one end of the spectrum and All Saints on the other, we’re sort of in the middle of that.”

The company has so far inked three leases for stores that will open in December and January, in the Brea Mall in Brea, Calif., The Shops at Mission Viejo in Mission Viejo, Calif., and Los Cerritos Center in Cerritos, Calif. Each unit is about 3,500 square feet in size.

An e-commerce site will launch in early November, prior to the first store opening.

Depending on how the first mall doors perform, Kramer envisions opening 20 to 30 additional units in 2013, with the eventual goal of reaching 700 to 800 doors, if everything goes right — a tall order given the current economic outlook. “I think it has that kind of potential but we are taking a very measured approach and looking for the right real estate,” explained Kramer.

Kellwood, which is privately held by Sun Capital Partners, will focus on the Southern California market before rolling Lamb & Flag out to other cities. The new division is based in Los Angeles and situating the first stores nearby will allow the company to monitor and react to their performance.

Kramer originally wanted to launch a rock ’n’ roll-inspired concept using the denim brand Rock & Republic as the platform. Kellwood bid on the then-bankrupt brand last year but lost out to VF Corp., which acquired Rock & Republic for $57 million and is taking it down market via a licensing deal with Kohl’s that starts in the spring.

About 60 percent of the new Lamb & Flag stores will be merchandised with women’s wear and 40 percent with men’s. In those assortments, 60 percent will be comprised of Lamb & Flag-branded merchandise and 40 percent by outside brands. About 15 to 20 vendors have been selected for the launch season, including Nudie, Rvca, Cheap Monday, A.P.C. and Insight.

“We saw that multibrand stores really weathered the tough economic times better than monobrand stores. I think providing customers with different brands is really how people like to shop now,” said Kramer.

In the Lamb & Flag-branded collections, denim will retail for $56 to $98, T-shirts for $22 to $36, wovens for $36 to $68 and outerwear for $48 to $128.

The initial women’s deliveries include both superslim and flare-leg jeans, off-the-shoulder knits, cinched dresses and color-blocked sweatshirts. The men’s lineup includes logo T-shirts, striped hoodies, military jackets and lots of vintage denim styles. “Our primary competition will probably be Hollister and American Eagle, while our pricing is more affordable than the The Buckle,” noted Kramer. “But Lamb & Flag is edgier and sexier. It’s like an all-American cheerleader, but she has a butterfly tattoo on her stomach.”

The Lamb & Flag name comes from a venerated pub in Oxford, England — which in turn is named for biblical imagery from the Gospel of John. The pub theme informed the decor of the store design, with black and dark green as the central color stories. Gold lettering adorns the facades and walls while a menu behind glass will greet shoppers with the store’s roster of brands inside.

Kellwood has been on an expansion tear this year, acquiring Scotch & Soda, Rebecca Taylor and Zobha since January. It also launched internally in February the BLK DNM brand, designed by Johan Lindeberg.

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