TORONTO — Twenty years ago, Canadian designer Jan Stimpson set out to create a collection of clothing basics, starting with the perfect T-shirt. Fast forward to 2021 and the casualwear brand Sympli is broadening its reach with the launch of its first U.S. digital flagship on Thursday.
“As a brand we have a lot of depth in our assortment and address many silhouettes with our current lineup of tops, tunics, dresses and pants featuring our proprietary jersey. But we are building an ecosystem,” said Carrie Kirkman, executive director of Sympli — which has sold mainly to independent specialty stores or smaller regional chains in the U.S. and Canada since its inception.
Sympli now boasts some 650 salespoints across North America.
“There were plans for us to go online a couple of years ago. But COVID fast-tracked things,” said Kirkman, who stepped into her new company role in December after serving as a board member for six years.
But as Kirkman revealed, the launch of Sympli’s U.S. digital flagship comes as a direct response to the rapid growth of the work-leisure category, which saw a 12 percent market share increase in the first six months of COVID-19.
“The demand for work-leisure has dramatically increased since the onset of COVID-19, with 47 percent of women now wearing the same clothes for work as they do after — a shift that has allowed us to grow Sympli’s online business in Canada exponentially,” said Kirkman.
Of course, a key factor behind such growth has been Sympli’s proprietary jersey fabric, which is the core of the brand. “It travels well. It wears well. It’s easy to care but also evokes this sense of leisure. It was made for COVID living,” Kirkman said.
“We may have been late coming to digital. But this digital flagship is a complement to our brick-and-mortar points of sale and not a threat to our core channel of retailers,” she added. “This was the best move to ensure our brand’s growth and see that its story continues.
“We have this cult following of women aged 45-plus who struggle to find product that fits well. But Sympli is a potent brand in its totality,” said Kirkman, whose company saw CAI Capital Partners become a majority owner in July 2015.
“While our independent retailers typically do their own edit and feature our bestselling anchor pieces, with this flagship shoppers now have an entry point to search and discover all that Sympli has to offer month by month.”
From Thursday, shoppers will be able to click on the new digital flagship to find monthly styling tips, blog content and more as they shop from new collections introduced each season. These include Sympli’s move into natural fibers, beginning with the March launch of its first stand-alone linen capsule collection.
For fall 2021, Sympli will also introduce two more natural fiber fabrications into the mix, now available in sizes 2 to 18 and in plus sizes 00, 1X, 2X, 3X.
“Our 650 distribution points may go up and down with store acquisitions 50 stores one way or the other. But we see the potential to go to 1,200 with the introduction of these natural fibers,” Kirkman said.
“In many ways this is all about not becoming a retail dinosaur. But who we are is defined by our customer, so the more they are interested in us, the more we grow,” she added.
“Our Sympli woman is not a kid. So our job is to help her express her internal confidence with clothes that make her look great. But everybody has to reinvent themselves,” said Kirkman. “This is Sympli’s moment for reinvention.”