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WeSC is getting serious about the U.S. market.
This story first appeared in the December 2, 2013 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
The publicly held Swedish streetwear brand has bought back its U.S. license from Oved Apparel Group, created an independent American subsidiary and named a new chief executive officer in a move to significantly increase its presence in the States.
WeSC, which stands for We Are the Superlative Conspiracy, had signed a 10-year license with Oved in June 2012, according to Joseph Janus, the newly named ceo of WeSC America Inc. But the decision was made to bring that license back in-house and internally oversee all apparel categories as well as the consumer electronics division.
“There’s a big disconnect with this brand,” Janus told WWD. “We have men’s and women’s apparel, footwear and headphones. There are a lot of moving parts and it’s hard for any master licensee to have expertise with everything. What the board realized is that you can’t run a business in the U.S. from Sweden and we needed strong management in the U.S. Oved was great at men’s, but not women’s, shoes or headphones. So the decision was made to bring the license in-house and incorporate out of the U.S.”
Although the U.S. operations will be incorporated here, design and production support will come from the global headquarters in Stockholm. Last month, the brand named Mattias Sahlin, most recently of surf brand Encore, as its men’s designer, and the duo of Natalia Altewai and Randa Saome, from the Swedish fashion brand ALTEWAISAOME, as its women’s designers. Exclusive pieces are also expected to be created for the U.S. market.
Janus, who had served as managing director of the U.S. market for WeSC under Oved, said the plan also includes opening three to four additional stores for the brand over the next 18 months. WeSC currently has stores in SoHo in New York and Santa Monica, Calif. Janus said the company would like to add “a few more stores located in New York City to complement our store on Lafayette Street.”
He said WeSC has a $10 million apparel business in the U.S. and the brand is sold at Macy’s, Dillard’s, Zumiez and other retailers. Its headphones are carried at Apple and Microsoft. Men’s wear currently represents 70 percent of sales, but ultimately he would like the mix to be 50-50 men’s and women’s. “There’s a big opportunity for us in women’s,” he said, noting that the new women’s design team will be offering merchandise that is “more feminine, rather than just an extension of our men’s line.”
The first product under the new designers will be for fall and the brand will show at the Agenda shows in Long Beach, Calif., Las Vegas and New York.
Janus, whose background includes senior vice president of creative and marketing for Calvin Klein and creative director of Bodhi, said that while WeSC has a “strong hold on the streetwear market,” the breadth of the offering goes beyond that. “There are not that many street brands that have lifestyle product,” he said.
The brand is carried in two dozen countries and the goal is to “make the U.S. the strongest of the 24 markets we’re in. I think with our new design team, we can own the streetwear category in the U.S.”
WeSC was founded in Sweden in 1999 and had sales of more than 400 million Swedish kronas, or $60.7 million at current exchange, last year. It is carried in about 2,400 stores and also operates 26 concept stores around the world.