LOS ANGELES — Halston Heritage is branching out physically and digitally.
This story first appeared in the September 5, 2013 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
After opening its first stores earlier this year in New York on Madison Avenue and in Los Angeles at Beverly Center, the brand has set up shop in SoHo in a 3,000-square-foot space at 59 Greene Street. The opening of the store, its fourth in the U.S., comes as the Los Angeles-based brand is spreading its retail footprint at home and abroad, and preparing for the launch of an e-commerce site in October.
On Greene Street, Halston chairman and chief executive officer Ben Malka said, “There are a lot of good brands around us that we feel are complementary to what we are doing. Of course, being downtown and uptown is great. It allows us to cater to the different customers that are going to those areas.”
The SoHo store has design elements similar to Halston Heritage’s existing stores — floating shelves to display footwear and a handbag wall with a three-dimensional backdrop of intricate, architectural squares, for example. But the store speaks to the location with unique details; for example, Halston Heritage didn’t change the facade of bricks, glass windows and columns. Inside, exposed brick walls and wood-plank floors give the store a loftlike vibe. Also inside the store is a 16-foot archival photograph taken by Scott Heiser of a model wearing an original Halston design at Olympic Tower, the former Halston headquarters.
Halston Heritage’s sales performance on Madison Avenue has Malka, who assumed control of the company in 2011, enthusiastic about the business it can do in SoHo. At the Madison store, he said, “We’ve had an enormous conversion rate, much higher than we would have thought. Almost half of the people who walk in buy. I’ve never seen anything like that. We are building a very strong consumer base.”
In addition to the SoHo store, Halston Heritage is opening or has recently opened stores in Kuwait, the Fashion Outlets of Chicago and the Cabazon Outlets. There are five more stores planned for this year, at Fashion Island in Newport Beach, Calif.; Fashion Show in Las Vegas; Fashion Valley in San Diego; Westfield Valley Fair in Santa Clara, Calif., and the Tanger Outlets at National Harbor in Washington.
Including concessions, Halston Heritage will have 21 units by the end of the year, and Malka said it remains on track to have at least 40 units in the next three years. He views global expansion of Halston Heritage, on both the retail and wholesale fronts, as a top priority. The brand is sold at Harvey Nichols and Harrods in the U.K., and Harvey Nichols in Hong Kong. The Middle East is an important region, and Halston Heritage will follow the Kuwait location with a store in Dubai that’s slated to open in January. Worldwide, Halston Heritage is distributed to 400 wholesale doors.
“We wanted it to have a global launch right away because a lot of brands start in their own countries — whether in Europe or in America — and when they go overseas, they have to change some of their positioning because, many years later, it doesn’t fit with the market they are entering. We wanted to do this where it had a global presence and geared to the same woman and at the same price point globally all at once,” said Malka.
Halston Heritage’s gowns are priced from $395 to $1,500; ready-to-wear retails for from $95 to $425, and shoes and day dresses range from $295 to $495. Malka said customers have gravitated to “almost everything that is iconic Halston. Our shirtdresses have been a great success, whatever color or print and in any fabric. Our jumpsuits, one-pieces, halters and beautiful gowns with a true Halston identity, they have really responded to those well.”
With the diffusion Halston Heritage line still getting off the ground, Malka isn’t quite ready to resurrect the Halston luxury line. “I just feel that we have a lot of work to do to get the consumer to recognize the brand the way we want it to be recognized before we go out and launch Halston,” he said. “I would like to do it today, but I’m going to do it when I feel our work is in a good position to make that move. We have to be cautious. I don’t want to make a mistake.”