This story first appeared in the July 12, 2012 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
When it comes to fashion, John O’Donnell is just a regular guy. He grew up in suburban Illinois, went to college at UCLA where he was a top-ranked amateur golfer, and sold radio advertising after graduation before he decided to dip his toe into the apparel industry. O’Donnell, whose brother is the actor Chris O’Donnell of “NCIS: Los Angeles” fame, came up with the idea of a line of men’s wear with a West Coast preppie air. He created a logo of a guy standing on a beach holding a surfboard and stuck it on a polo shirt. He named the line after his nickname, Johnnie-O.
Since the line was conceived with that simple premise in 2005, O’Donnell has found a ready audience. In fact, Johnnie-O will rack up sales of $2 million this year, a number that surprises the entrepreneur who founded the line. “We’re not reinventing the wheel,” he said, “but people seem to love our brand and want to wear it in different places. So we’re working on giving them more Johnnie-O in their closet.”
At the MRket show in New York, O’Donnell will introduce his latest invention — a traditional button-down shirt with a twist. “We’re calling it the tweener button,” he said. For most guys, if they close the top button it’s too constricting, but leaving it open is a little too revealing. So he came up with the idea of adding a small button between the two with different color stitching. The shirt, which will retail for $95, will be offered in gingham or tattersall patterns, as well as solids. “It gives us something different to talk about,” he said.
Spring will also mark the introduction of sweaters, another new category for the brand. “They’ve got a high V neck that won’t choke you but is high enough for a woven shirt to be worn under it,” O’Donnell said. The spring sweaters will be a cotton-wool blend and will feature the surfer dude logo on the back of the collar. They will retail for $98.
O’Donnell will also continue to show his original and most successful product, the four-button polo, in a variety of colors in both long- and short-sleeve versions. “That’s our home run,” he said, noting that he will expand the offering to include a moisture-wicking version as well that he named the Prep-formance model. The signature wedge-collar pique polos will also be offered.
A quarter-zip fleece pullover will also be in the mix. “So many pullovers make you look like the Michelin Man,” he said. O’Donnell’s will have minor tapering and other details such as zippers that don’t pull on men’s beards when they close it.
Also on the drawing board for the brand is a swimwear collection, as well as expanded offerings for children.
— Jean E. Palmieri
Arthur de Soultrait has been in the news a lot lately, but it’s not all related to his apparel line. The French aristocrat and close friend of Pippa Middleton was at the center of a tabloid scandal in April after photos surfaced of the two riding through the streets of Paris in an Audi convertible with its driver brandishing what police called “a realistic-looking weapon.” The gun turned out to be a toy that de Soultrait’s friend thought would help scare away the paparazzi who have been hounding the Duchess of Cambridge’s sister, who was in Paris to help de Soultrait celebrate his 30th birthday and the seventh anniversary of his polo-inspired sportswear line, Vicomte A.
The scandal created an international stir and more than a little publicity for de Soultrait’s colorful apparel collection that got its start with silk ties, belts and brightly colored polo shirts, but has since expanded into a full collection of men’s, women’s and children’s apparel and accessories with annual sales of over $49 million. It operates stores throughout France, as well as in Madrid, Stockholm, Prague, Luxembourg, London and Salzburg, Austria; there are also units in Kuwait City and Palm Beach, Fla.
The company recently inked a licensing deal with Los Angeles-based Benecci Corp. to help it increase its exposure in the U.S. market and it will be showing at MRket. James Benton, who heads the sales efforts for the collection, said the line will offer a full collection with products ranging from lightweight linen jackets and shorts to dress shirts. Bright colors will continue to be a hallmark of the line.
“Vicomte A. had a lot of logo pieces early on, geared to polo players,” he said, “but we toned that down for the U.S. market. It’s much more accessible.”
Prices include polos for $38 to $58, trousers from $54 to $74 and sweaters from $45 to $65, and it will be targeted to the “upper tier,” with retailers such as Nordstrom, Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue the “focal points” for distribution of the collection. Although prices for the U.S. line have not been finalized, Benton said.
Matteo Gottardi brings a multifaceted background to his W.R.K collection.
Gottardi started his career in fashion working for Diesel, followed by Armani, and, in 2005, he launched Operations, a store in SoHo that showcased workwear as fashion. Next up was a wholesale collection for men and women under the Operations name, followed by a second store in the Meatpacking District and eventually two additional collections: Incorporated by Operations and Operations for Levi Strauss.
Two years ago, Gottardi, in partnership with brand strategist Maurizio Marchiori, decided to inject his own unique take into the contemporary designer market by launching W.R.K, which stands for Work, Rest, Karma. “Simple words but incredibly important,” said Gottardi. “The world has changed. People are looking for honesty, integrity and tangible value. They are tired of buying into false promises, romanticized ideals and vanity. They are looking for something pure, something everyone can relate to. Not what we should be, but what we are.” W.R.K is not a fashion brand, he said, but “bridges functionality with aesthetics, where neither aspect is compromised,” he said.
Spring will mark the fifth collection for the label, which is carried at Nordstrom, Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue, Bloomingale’s, Butch Blum, Gary’s and Von Maur. However, this season marks the first where distribution of the collection will be handled directly, without the aid of a distributor, and it will show at ENKNYC. “The design and product quality haven’t changed,” said Colin Gillooly, sales and marketing director, “but the price-value relationship is now more in line.”
Gillooly said the spring collection is inspired by the American road trip. “Matteo found a vintage image of a Wagoneer,” he said, noting that the “ethos of the brand” continues to be the meeting of form and function. “For spring, it’s the same thing, but with a travel overtone.” The collection is work-inspired and also centers around tailored clothing with “updated twists,” he said.
Prices include blazers for $395, outerwear for $295 to $395, long-sleeve wovens for $128 to $148, trousers for $148 to $168, shorts for $78 to $98, sweaters for $148 to $178 and T-shirts for $58.
Theodore Yemc can thank his grandfather for being the catalyst behind Chief, his pocket square and handkerchief collection.
After graduating from the Rhode Island School of Design in 2007 with a degree in printmaking, the Connecticut native got a job at an artist’s studio, where he spent his days working — and sweating. He had inherited a drawer full of handkerchiefs from his grandfather and quickly “wore through them” mopping his brow during long hours at the studio, he said.
One day, he decided to cut up some old shirts and use them as handkerchiefs instead. He showed them to his mother and girlfriend, who were impressed with the creativity and innovation his handkerchiefs displayed and encouraged him to start selling his creations. He took their advice and, last summer, he launched Chief.
Yemc, who is based in Brooklyn, now offers handkerchiefs, pocket squares and kerchiefs in patchwork designs. They’re available in 13 inches for $55, 16 inches for $60 and 19 inches for $65. Currently, the collection is being sold at Madewell in its Labels We Love section, as well as at Smith + Butler in Carroll Gardens, N.Y., and Incu Clothing in Melbourne, Australia. Yemc will also show the collection for the first time at the Black Dog showroom at ENKNYC.
“I don’t really see anything like this out there in the world,” Yemc said. “So I took that as an opportunity to fill a void.”
The collection is designed in Brooklyn and made in America from Japanese fabrics. While most handkerchiefs are white linen and pocket squares are silk, Yemc opts for a variety of patterns and fabrics including cotton-linen or cotton-wool blends and dobby prints in stripes and checks.
“We try to use more interesting fabrics like you’d wear as a shirt,” he said. “We like to push the envelope.”
Eighties surf brand Jimmy’Z, whose trademark was most recently owned and operated by teen retailer Aéropostale Inc., has been reborn under new owner and licensee Blake Harrington and original founder Jim Ganzer. The duo have returned the brand to its West Coast lifestyle roots, brought back its “Woody” car and surfboard logo and revived the brand’s signature size-tab Velcro “EZ In, EZ Out” shorts and boardshorts with an adjustable gusset.
Harrington, who previously worked on the relaunch of another Eighties surf brand, Maui and Sons — which was acquired by his father, Richard Harrington, in 1989 — owns the international trademarks for Jimmy’Z and has a five-year license from Aéropostale for the brand in the U.S. and Canada. His long-term goal is to acquire the brand in total from the retail chain.
Aéropostale shuttered a group of Jimmy’Z concept shops in 2009, after launching them in 2005. The company had acquired the Jimmy’Z name in 2004 after it had changed hands from Ocean Pacific to Trends Clothing Corp.
“They didn’t get the brand DNA, they took away the logo and the core West Coast lifestyle attitude. It was a bunch of guys in New York trying to make a West Coast brand,” said Harrington of Aéropostale’s aborted efforts with Jimmy’Z. The brand made a name for itself in the Eighties with evocative advertising featuring the likes of a young Cindy Crawford, Gary Busey and musician Stevie Ray Vaughan. Harrington has based the brand in Pacific Palisades, Calif., and first relaunched last year in Japan and Europe. This spring, Opening Ceremony picked up the brand in the U.S. and retailers can shop the spring line at the Capsule show.
The surf shorts, which have no buttons or zippers to make them more comfortable when laying on a surfboard, retail for $65 to $75. The line also encompasses logo T-shirts, zippered hoodies, chambray shirts, tank tops and hats, with everything designed by Ganzer, who first founded the brand in 1984. Men’s comprises about 80 percent of sales while a juniors line, including wrap skirts, tank tops and crop tops, is 20 percent of sales. For fall 2013, Harrington plans to launch a boys’ line.
— DAVID LIPKE
New shoe line Ohw may have a somewhat abstruse name — it’s “who” spelled backward — but the designs themselves are clean and straightforward. The England-based company operates its own factory in Zhuhai, China, that makes high-quality footwear for a number of well-known brands and last season launched Ohw as its own label.
“These are casual shoes that aren’t overly designed — the emphasis is really on the materials, comfort and quality of construction,” said Paul Conrad, owner of the Medium Concepts showroom in New York, which is representing the line and showing at Capsule. With retail prices from $145 to $210, Ohw offers casual city shoes and boots in leather and suede, with details like hand-stitched seams and pyramid-tread soles.
Founders Stephen Gill and Hiro Chen, who are English and Taiwanese, respectively, have over 40 years of footwear experience between them. The two split their time between company headquarters outside of London and the Chinese factory — where each shoe is hand-signed by the final quality-control inspector.
The line has been carried in some British stores for one season and this holiday will be the first time it’s available in the U.S. Conrad is targeting fashion retailers initially to build brand awareness — Steven Alan is likely to be the first retailer to pick it up — and then will expand distribution to footwear stores. “The designs are perfect for the casual guy in a shirt, tie and chinos who wants to wear something comfortable and sporty, but not a pair of New Balance. I can see architects and design professionals geeking out over these,” said Conrad.
Chloe Lonsdale has denim in her blood. Her father, Tony Lonsdale, owned the iconic Seventies London emporium Jean Machine; her mother, Chekkie, was a top jeans model of the era; and her godfather, Tony O’Gorman, was the founder of the British denim brand Made in Heaven. In 2005, the Central Saint Martins grad relaunched Made in Heaven as a women’s-only denim maker, under the acronym MiH.
This year, she turned her attention to the guys, taking her father’s Jean Machine name for a line of understated men’s denim via an exclusive distribution deal with Mr. Porter for spring, as well as on its own e-commerce site. This fall, Jean Machine will expand to Scoop stores and for next spring the company is opening up distribution to other retailers, which can shop the line at Project.
Jean Machine denim retails from between $170 to $250 and is cut in three fits: slim, straight and relaxed. A complementary sportswear collection includes slim-fit jean jackets, jean shorts, chino-style trousers, outerwear, long- and short-sleeve shirts, polos, hooded sweatshirts, pocket T-shirts and leather belts.
Some styles of the jeans are fashioned from organic cotton and hemp, with color options including indigo, black and white. All the washes and details in the collection hew to the brand’s clean, sophisticated aesthetic.
Mark McNairy can seem omnipresent when walking through some trade shows, as he’s recently completed collaborations with Timberland, PF Flyers, Keds and Garrett Leight eyewear. He also designs the Woolrich Woolen Mills and Billionaire Boys Club Bee lines. However, his home base is his own Mark McNairy New Amsterdam label, which is carried in about 50 stores worldwide, with another 50 carrying just his footwear. Key retail partners include Odin, Bodega, Colette, Dover Street Market, Beams and Isetan.
McNairy often uses traditional American silhouettes and bodies, but adds his own spin via unexpected fabrics, prints and color schemes. For spring, look for lots of polka dots, cheetah prints and zebra stripes in the line, which will show at Capsule.
“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. But if you’re not moving forward then you’re gonna be pretty boring,” said McNairy of his approach to melding the classic with the progressive — as seen in a pair of quilted neon shorts or a plaid shirt with embroidered daisies.
McNairy’s suits are fashioned from durable, but breathable, cotton with a series of five zippered pockets on the inner jacket to hold a modern male’s panoply of electronic devices, wallets, card holders, cigarettes and other essentials. Suit jackets retail from $388 to $625, shirts from $218 to $278, pants from $250 to $430 and outerwear from $200 to $625.
Rapper Danny Brown models in McNairy’s spring look book, after the designer recruited him via Twitter. “Just learning that he’s a 51-year-old designer competing in a young man’s game made me feel a connection with him ’cause I feel I’m sort of the same way. We’re both just taking classic pieces and adding new color to them,” said Brown.
Sidian, Ersatz & Vanes
The three British partners who founded the Sidian, Ersatz & Vanes line of shirts have remained anonymous and mysterious, refusing to divulge their identities, in the vein of Martin Margiela. What is known about the trio is that they have other professions in creative industries — thus their professed need for secrecy — and they dreamed up the project during a road trip to Cape Mendocino in California.
The shirt assortments, which come in either a regular or slim fit, have a fashion-forward attitude, incorporating artsy themes like colorblocking, irregular horizontal stripe motifs and micro patterns, as well as signature details like double chest pockets. All of the fabrics are exclusive to Sidian, Ersatz & Vanes, which manufactures the collection in Macedonia.
“The shirts are a little more advanced and directional than a typical shirt line. I think the whole workwear and heritage trend has been so overdone, so this is something a bit different for that relatively conservative, but style-conscious, customer,” said Paul Conrad, owner of the Medium Concepts showroom in New York, which is representing the line and showing it at Capsule for the first time.
The shirts will retail from $230 to $275. For spring, the company is adding a small number of ties and zippered blouson jackets to the lineup. Sidian, Ersatz & Vanes is carried in a handful of U.S. stores, including Barneys New York, Opening Ceremony, Assembly and Boylston Trading Co.