For Rag & Bone’s accessories, it’s business as usual. The brand, which saw cofounder David Neville depart the everyday business in June, will carry on under the sole leadership of his partner, chief executive officer Marcus Wainwright.
While Neville will continue on as a shareholder and member of the brand’s board, Wainwright will steer its ship. He has long overseen the brand’s aesthetics — and will continue to do so. Part of these efforts will be to further develop the line’s accessories, particularly handbags.
Accessories currently represent 20 percent of the brand’s total sales, a fraction not in accordance with most mature labels — which tend to equally split sales between accessories and ready-to-wear, sometimes with accessories even outweighing clothes.
Of the brand’s 300-or-so global points of sale, some 70 percent stock at least some of the label’s accessories. This leaves immense room for growth, particularly in Asia and Europe, according to Wainwright, who helped found the New York-based label in 2002.
“We do have ambitions to grow, but there is no percentage attached to this that we’d like to target,” he specified. “We are focused on building great shoes, building out the line, we are not as much about the financial side [right now] as much as we are about the integrity of the product.”
Some tasks at hand are to create new stalwart shoe and bag styles. Rag & Bone had long relied on its Newbury ankle boot style as the cash cow for its shoe business, but Wainwright conceded that, “We know a lot of people have that boot and boots like that are not going to be in style forever, so we’ve been focusing on rounding out our offering, as insurance around that. You can’t really rely on one shoe or one product, it’s dangerous.” In their place are more streamlined styles — still with a block heel — that retail upward of $500.
He added that “bags are a newer category for us,” and that they possess considerable opportunity for growth.
“We’re making a concerted effort to go after the bag business. It has been a strange one to think about what’s happening with bags on every level, it hasn’t been clear what the market is and what customers are looking for. For us, it’s the least penetrated business and it’s very different from clothes and shoes, and requires a totally different skill set so we are working to build out a staff here,” said Wainwright.
Rag & Bone currently employs a team of two to develop its bags. But Wainwright says that New York labels are hard-pressed to find homegrown talent in the accessories division — echoing similar thoughts expressed by Proenza Schouler’s Jack McCollough and Lazaro Hernandez in an October interview with WWD.
According to Wainright, “The [talent] is all in Europe, basically there is no one really creating and building that talent in America other than, really, Coach. It’s very hard to find people, most of the talent is coming out of Europe, and even then it’s hard to find someone you can bond with and persuade them not to live in Paris but to move to New York.
“We absolutely have to have homegrown bag talent in a country that designs and creates millions of bags,” Wainwright said. “It would make the same sense with shoes, it’s hard to find shoe talent, there are not many companies [here] that build their own shoes, most are licensed. Shoes are an industrial product, if you could find these people in America it would be fantastic.”