By  on August 10, 2011

Retailer Unionmade is the product of two gaps.

The first is Gap Inc., which unintentionally prodded Todd Barket to start Unionmade in 2009 by laying him off after 19 years with the company, ascending from salesperson to senior creative director of marketing at Old Navy. The second is a gap that Barket sensed in the San Francisco shopping scene for a store with classic men’s fashion pieces. “There wasn’t a lot going on in men’s at the time in San Francisco, and I felt there was a hole for nice quality men’s stuff on the timeless side,” he said.

Plugging the gaps in men’s shopping and in his résumé has proven fruitful for Barket. Unionmade’s concept built upon an Americana theme with standard staples for a man’s closet such as jeans, oxford cloth shirts and shoes has caught on with a segment of 20- to 65-year-old men who Barket describes as “really educated consumers” that “like nice things in general all through their lives. We’ve done the work of going through the lines and really editing for them,” said Barket, who singled out Gitman Vintage, Levi’s Vintage Clothing, Filson, Alden and Saint James as among Unionmade’s best-selling brands.

Sales per square foot in the original 1,300-square-foot San Francisco store, which is a converted liquor store at 493 Sanchez Street, were around $1,000 last year, and Barket predicts that figure will rise this year. This month, Barket plans to add another 1,000 square feet to the store to expand on its base of American merchandise as well as dabble more heavily into European brands, as well as gift, apothecary and home items. Unionmade opened a smaller, 800-square-foot location at the Brentwood Country Mart in Santa Monica, Calif., in April and will open a third 1,000-square-foot unit in September at the Marin Country Mart.

Unionmade carries roughly 40 brands at its San Francisco store, and 25 at its Santa Monica one. Barket, who considers Millard “Mickey” Drexler, chairman of J. Crew, a huge influence, is, along with Ron Herman, one of the only stores in the U.S. outside of J. Crew stores to carry J. Crew. Other brands at Unionmade include Jean Shop, Patagonia, Carhartt, Florsheim, Woolrich Woolen Mills, A.P.C., Raleigh Denim and Oliver Spencer. The store regularly collaborates with brands, and Tellason, The Hill-Side, Golden Bear and Steele Canvas have teamed with Unionmade for pieces set to hit the store in September. An average transaction at Unionmade runs $200 to $250, according to Barket.

Jim Rosenfield, a principal at Brentwood Country Mart and Marin Country Mart owner J.S. Rosenfield & Co., was on the hunt for a multibrand men’s store for his properties when he came across Unionmade. “For the guy that dresses casually, it is all well made, well priced, exactly what the doctor ordered for these times,” he said.

The look of Unionmade stores relies upon a simple, clean aesthetic Barket learned from the Gap. “The thing we have done with the stores is made them cozy. It’s a clean box, and it is a lot of white and black, and the product is the hero. When you get heavy handed in store design, it takes away from the clothes,” he said. Unlike boutiques that limit the sizes of clothes on the selling floor, Barket said, “We actually have stacks of clothes you can dig through and find your size.” He explained the goal for the store to be “self-serve with good customer service.”

In the future, Barket expects Unionmade will open a store in New York. He is also developing merchandise under the Unionmade label with Levi’s former design director of premium brands Carl Chiara, who is his boyfriend and the co-owner of Unionmade.

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