Zoo York Turns 20

The skatewear label will launch a premium collection and plans for a significant rollout of the brand in both the U.S. and overseas.

Zoo York is celebrating its 20th anniversary this fall with the launch of a premium collection and plans for a significant rollout of the brand in both the U.S. and overseas.

This story first appeared in the August 29, 2013 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

The skatewear label, which is now owned by Iconix Brand Group Inc., was founded by skateboarders Rodney Smith, Eli Gessner and Adam Schatz, who used New York City streets as their inspiration for a line of skateboards and T-shirts. It is targeted to young men aged 12 to 24 and now offers more than 10 categories of merchandise, ranging from apparel and accessories to footwear and skateboards.

Zoo York is licensed to Li & Fung and focused on midtier retailers such as J.C. Penney and Kohl’s. In 2012, the label was projected to have $150 million in retail sales and $8 million in royalty revenue.

Seth Horowitz, president of Iconix’s men’s division, declined to give an updated volume figure, saying the Zoo York division “expects double-digit growth next year. The demand for action sports and youth culture brands is massive, especially those with an authoritative position in the market and a 20-year history like Zoo York.”

To capitalize on the opportunity, Zoo York is launching a premium collection under the name of Zoo York Kings. Each season, Kings will collaborate with a different skateboarder; the first will be the Harold Hunter Foundation, an organization that honors the professional skateboarder and actor who died in 2006 at the age of 31.

The Kings collection will be sold in skate shops starting next week and will be priced at about twice the regular collection. Horowitz said a typical T-shirt from Zoo York retails for $16 to $24, while the Kings collection will sell for $30 to $50 depending upon the endorsee. The core will continue to be graphic Ts but the line will include boardshorts, footwear and some fleece. Chapman Skateboards, the brand’s hard-goods licensee, will also be offering special decks under the Kings umbrella.

Horowitz said distribution of the Kings line will be tight. “We want high demand and low supply,” Horowitz said. “That’s important to the brand’s halo.”

International expansion is also in the cards, Horowitz said. Currently, Zoo York is licensed in Canada, Europe, Latin America, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, South Korea, South Africa, the Middle East and parts of Southeast Asia. “And we’re working on others,” he said. “We just brought our skate team to Brazil and South America for a tour and realized they’re legends around the world. So we see opportunity there.”

In Australia, Zoo York also offers junior merchandise and Horowitz said expanding into women’s in the States is seen as “an avenue for growth” as well.

Horowitz said the 20th anniversary will be celebrated through “aggressive disruptive marketing.” He pointed to a recent video where Zoo York-sponsored skaters Chaz Ortiz, Dave Willis and Brandon Westgate performed skateboarding tricks in a deserted Yankee Stadium at night. “We will continue to do things like that,” Horowitz said.