After more than 20 years in the men’s wear business, it’s fairly easy for Chris Manley to get retailers to take his call. But if they didn’t think his latest venture had potential, that’s where the goodwill would have stopped.
This story first appeared in the March 15, 2013 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Lucky for him, Bloomingdale’s, Saks Fifth Avenue and a handful of specialty stores signed on for the launch season of Surfside Supply Co., a casual sportswear brand with a relaxed beach-inspired sensibility. Nordstrom and Amazon will add the line for fall.
Unlike his prior experience at Donna Karan, Hugo Boss, Theory and Converse, the personal stakes are higher for Surfside Supply Co., a brand Manley created with Zhu Jiang, a Chinese manufacturer and sourcing agent.
“I wanted to man my own ship,” Manley said in an interview in his 30th Street showroom in New York. “I was tired of the corporate life.”
So shortly after leaving Converse, he partnered with Jiang to create a brand with a similar aesthetic to the popular Tommy Bahama collection, but aimed at a younger man. “Tommy Bahama has a very nice business, but it’s geared to a more mature guy. Our guy is 35 to 45,” he said. “I saw an opportunity to do something about the beach, and Surfside is about this kind of life.”
The launch collection, which has around 42 stockkeeping units, encompasses garment-dyed hoodie sweatshirts, slub cotton polos, cotton chinos and patterned woven shirts. Shorts and swimwear are also part of the mix. Everything is washed for a “friendly, warm feel and a nice touch. Nothing is chunky.”
Price points include wovens for $115 “with a margin of 70 percent,” he said, swimwear at $78 to $88 and fleece hoodies for $125. “It’s similar to a Tommy Bahama price point,” he said.
All polos and T-shirts have tails, every item incorporates a signature cover-lock and chain stitch as well as a Surfside emblem patch with the brand’s name and an illustration of a wave. “It’s a really tight collection,” he said, noting that there will be four deliveries: spring, summer, fall and holiday/resort. Among the best-selling items for spring were Japanese chambray and microplaid woven shirts as well as a washed crewneck sweater.
Manley, whose background is primarily in product design and development, is overseeing sales and marketing for the line, and works with a technical team in Asia on the design of the collection.