The Australian streetwear brand Ksubi is branching out with new stores and a new ad campaign.
The company will hold a launch event in the Miami store on August 11. Located in the city’s design district, the 2,250-square-foot store blends fashion, music and art. The Sydney-based company tapped Legeard Studio to design the space, as well a Chicago outpost that is expected to bow next month. Ksubi also gearing up to open a London store in October.
Dating to 1999, Ksubi was created by four surfers who were looking for more rebellious options. During a recent interview, Ksubi chief executive officer Craig King mentioned how the brand always has been rooted in a lot of energy, good times, parties, culture and entertainment and it continues to provide that for customers.
The brand collaborates with artists and rappers, and has “a very strong following through the rap community, which we lean into,” King said. He mentioned how the brand has teamed up with A$AP Rocky and Travis Scott in the past but is no longer working with them. Asked if that has been double-edged sword given the controversies both musicians have faced, King declined to comment.
The company has also unveiled a new ad campaign starring Australian model Cat McNeil, who has come out of retirement following a three-year hiatus. The shoot in her home in North Queensland was a homecoming in more ways than one. The model was reunited with photographer Pierre Toussaint, who shot the first photographs that set her on a course for fame.
McNeil sports some of Ksubi’s women’s pieces, including its Brooklyn and Playback styles, which have been worn by influencers like Hailey Bieber, Kendall Jenner and Gigi Hadid. McNeil also joined forces with the brand to create a limited-run denim jacket with embroidery inspired by her extensive tattoos. As of today, the women’s denim collection is available via the brand’s e-commerce site and through its freestanding stores in Los Angeles, New York and Miami.
The campaign also includes a short film about McNeil by Howl that highlights her transformation from a teenage tomboy into a popular runway and editorial model.
Having opened stores in Los Angeles and New York “that have done quite well and clicked all the boxes,” with the U.S. accounting for about 70 percent of its e-commerce sales, the brand decided to open more domestic stores. “When I asked my industry friends, ‘Where should we open a store?’ Before I could get the sentence out, [they said] ‘Miami,’” King said.
Data indicated that city was among the popular hubs for Ksubi, as are Chicago, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Atlanta and other cities. On a scouting trip to Miami, King said he understood what everyone was talking about. “I hadn’t seen crowds in a long time, very busy restaurants and people out on the streets. Some friends took me out and I was heading home at 2:30 a.m., which is a late night for me these days, and the streets were just packed with people. It reminded me of the ’90s in New York. Everybody was out and mingling. There were lots of people and it was just a great energy.”
To avoid cookie-cutter units, each Ksubi store has its own “locality personality,” King said. Miami, for example, has a multicolor LED lighting system that lines the perimeter of the ceiling that can change to different neon shades during the course of the day with the music. “We thought that was a nod to Miami, which has this overall entertainment vibe,” King said.
Conversely, the Chicago store has more of an Old World Chicago inspiration with a theater look and punk graphics, King said.
In addition to being a shopping destination, the Miami boutique will be used for events tied to art and design. Ksubi tapped a local artist known as “Slumpy Kev” for a collaboration that debuts Friday.
The denim brand favors artwork-adorned jeans and abrasion, and launched accessories about 18 months ago. Larger silhouettes for women and men including wider-legged styles are expected to be increasingly of interest in the months ahead. Ksubi aims to have 12 to 18 stores globally in gateway cities, according to King, who declined to comment about the brand’s annual volume. That would include Berlin, Paris, Tokyo and other major fashion capitals.
As for the most challenging aspect of doing business today, the supply chain is one constant due to the pandemic, shifting conditions, and not enough boats or planes among other things, King said. Managing the budget is another challenge. “We’re all really nervous. In 2020, a lot of businesses almost shut down. Then with the extraordinary stimulus that went into the market it was almost [a matter of] as much product you could produce, you could sell,” King said. “Now we’re sliding into another economic market, where sales are going to be harder to come by. The constant flux of the last pa years puts a strain on management to manage their business, their costs and I suppose forecast their sales with any real confidence.”
Ksubi’s key demographic tends to be in their 20s and 30s and many don’t have the financial responsibilities tied to having children or mortgages. “They seem to be out again and enjoying themselves. Part of that is dressing appropriately to have a good time,” King said. “I wouldn’t say we’re watertight. But we’ve got some confidence that our customer is still going to be spending.”