Iro Opens First U.S. Store, More Planned

The French brand, which last week unveiled a 2,000-square-foot flagship in New York, is looking to open 20 additional stores in the next few years.

An image from Iro's spring ad campaign.

NEW YORK — Iro, a French brand with a presence in high-end specialty stores, last week unveiled its first U.S. outpost, a 2,000-square-foot flagship at 450 Broome Street and the corner of Mercer Street. It is expected to do $3 million in annual sales.

This story first appeared in the April 3, 2013 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

“America is a big story for us,” said Laurent Bitton, who founded the label with his brother Arik. “By 2015 we hope to reach 20 stores.”

Iro plans to open stores in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Las Vegas, Chicago, Miami and Boston. Bitton said the company has found a site in Los Angeles, but declined to divulge the location. Additional sites being sought in New York include Madison Avenue, the West Village and the World Trade Center area.

Iro, which opens seven or eight stores annually in Europe, operates four units in Paris and is sold in shops-in-shop at Le Bon Marché and Printemps. Additional stores are bowing on the Rue Royale in Paris and in Marseille, France, and Beirut.

There have been reports that investors such as Guess’ Marciano brothers are circling Iro. “You don’t need a huge corporate [entity] to push you to get numbers,” Bitton said. “Six years after launching, we’re opening a huge store in SoHo. In 2015 that’s something that might be official. I’m happy that [Iro] is so interesting that it can attract huge companies like Guess. We’ve also been talking to Andrew Rosen [founder and chief executive officer of Theory] for six months, and nothing has been done. Huge international financial groups” are also knocking on Iro’s door, Bitton said.

Iro mixes luxury fabrics — the company uses 180 different fabrics every season— with inspiration from streetwear. The collection also features leather and nubby knits. “We merchandise by outfit, color and texture,” said Bitton, adding that Iro has more than 200 stockkeeping units. “Shapes repeat themselves in different fabrics to create different price points.” For example, the Jack jacket is an oversize linen jacket with leather yoke and a belt. The Veste Devin, in the same linen fabric, has long leather sleeves and three-edge leather piping. A perforated leather jacket in black or white is $1,396; a silk crepe dress is $506, and a sweater with detailing is $270.

The flagship was built using all of Iro’s hallmark materials: concrete, metal duct work, and exposed ceilings and columns. Racks are positioned asymmetrically with track lights following the merchandise.

Iro will launch e-commerce in the U.S. in June, Bitton said, adding, “E-commerce is going to be a big point for us. The e-shop has to be the biggest store.”

“We’re investing in advertising and public relations, which will help push the wholesale,” Bitton explained. There’s also a catalogue-magazine featuring location photo shoots and inspirational blurbs. Iro’s ads show models posing against raw backgrounds such as walls with peeling paint or in black-and-white shots that have a rock ’n’ roll edge. The company is moving its New York showroom to the second floor of 450 Broome Street.

Iro, which introduced men’s wear last year, is expanding its denim offering for men and women. “Denim is a huge category for us,” Bitton said. “Next year, we’re introducing Iro denim made in Italy with different washes and printed denim.”

Besides Saks Fifth Avenue, Nordstrom, Net-a-porter and Intermix, Iro sells to Barneys New York, which is opening six more doors to bring the total to 12 and will increase orders by 40 percent. “We were at the trade shows building Iro from zero to what it is today,” Bitton said. “Fashion is becoming global.”