LOS ANGELES — For Erik Hart, there’s more to life than a rock show. There are art galleries to visit, the streets of Tokyo and London to explore and a multimillion dollar business to grow.
This story first appeared in the February 6, 2008 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Five years after he started outfitting rockers in languid T-shirts from his streetwear label, Morphine Generation, Hart will begin selling sharply cut tuxedo blazers in shiny chintz wool, silk kimono dresses toughened with drawings of thistles, cuffed wool trousers, high-waisted pencil skirts, felted wool motorcycle jackets in a Buffalo check and 31 other styles in a higher-end line launching this fall.
The new line, Erik Hart: Factory of Aesthetics & Dreams, will encompass all the ready-to-wear that Hart offered in Morphine Generation but in better fabrications from Italy and Japan, with attention to silhouette and fit. Although Morphine Generation will continue to offer streetwear, Ts and jersey pieces wholesaling from $30 to $90, the higher-end line will cost between $50 and $270.
“It’s nice to dress up,” said a jean-and-blazer clad Hart, sitting in his office in the corner of a chilly warehouse built here in a space that previously housed the swimming pool for the Knickerbocker Hotel. “Morphine Generation is more casual. It’s oriented around artwork and prints. The point of Erik Hart is you can dress it down or dress it up.”
Targeting a customer between the ages of 18 and 35, who works in a creative field, Hart said the darkly urbane clothes from his second line can be worn straight from the stage of a rock concert to an art gallery opening. Indeed, the 28-year-old designer loosely based the creations on his own life and interests, which include singing in a grinding dance band called Suicide Club, as well as being a fan of artist Cindy Sherman and writer Herman Hesse, as evidenced by the books scattered in his office.
Hart hired cinematographer Ross Richardson to create an 8-minute film starring fictitious characters named Lucien and Sophie, who form a band called The Dark Harts. He plans to show the movie in Los Angeles and New York in the spring in lieu of a fashion show.
The line’s details range from Italian horn buttons etched with Hart’s name on the rim to an oversize zipper that splices the back of a shift dress. He also injected street smarts into a racer-back design for a minidress shimmering in metallic jersey and thumbholes in the exaggerated cuffs of a cropped cable-knit sweater.
Aiming to place his namesake line in high-end stores worldwide, Hart said Los Angeles’ Ron Herman was among the first to pick up the collection. Erik Hart is projected to generate $2 million in wholesale sales in its first year, compared with Morphine Generation’s targeted annual sales of $6 million to $8 million through retailers such as H Lorenzo in Los Angeles, Loveless in Tokyo and Atrium in New York.
Aware that launching a pricier line in the middle of a challenging retail industry can be difficult, Hart said he wanted to ensure comfort in cutting-edge design, not to mention versatility by offering a wide patent leather belt with a silk-cashmere cowl-neck dress and encouraging shoppers to style five different looks from one item.
“While this is an artistic outlet, it’s also my business,” Hart said. “I want this business to grow. I want this to be an alternative lifestyle luxury brand that people can afford.”