It all started with a T-shirt for Cotton Citizen in a story not unlike that of many other brands.
The Los Angeles company, which sells elevated basics, opened the doors this weekend to its first store on Melrose Place near Frame and Alfred Coffee. The 600-square-foot store is expected to be the first of many as the four-year-old brand — focused on placing different colors, washes and treatments on classic T-shirt silhouettes — scales.
The concept for the store is to highlight the company’s use of color by showcasing its different T-shirt silhouettes in a single color — mint on display for the company’s opening — in hopes of making an impact as soon as people walk in.
“The brand has always been about color,” said founder Adam Vanunu. “We have a dye house. We want to focus on that. We want to showcase that.”
The company’s opening price point is $65 for a classic T-shirt with some items going for as much as $350. The average ticket is about $120, according to Vanunu. The line is sold at about 100 stores globally.
The privately-held company, which declined to provide revenues, employs about 15 between Los Angeles and New York, where it has a showroom. Vanunu’s family owns American Dye House, a denim facility that works with Frame and Chrome Hearts among others.
About four years ago, Vanunu decided to launch his own brand, with a T-shirt that didn’t compete with the family’s factory customers. He landed in Fred Segal first, selling there exclusively for six months and then expanded into sweatshirts and sweatpants. E-commerce launched about a year and a half later.
The Los Angeles native chose Melrose Place for its residential qualities, citing a small group of landlords who have carefully merchandised a street that most recently saw the opening of Vanessa Seward’s first U.S. boutique, which joined existing brands such as APC, The Row and The Apartment by The Line — Los Angeles.
“It feels very much at home,” he said. “Melrose Place is very much about a neighborhood. You have your coffee shops. You have your juice spots. There’s pilates classes. You don’t feel like you’re at a mall. You’re not on Rodeo Drive. You’re not on Abbot Kinney, which is becoming very commercialized.”
Melrose Place is seen as a kickoff to expand Cotton Citizen’s retail footprint with Vanunu eyeing New York next, and adding the concept could do well in major cities and beach communities, the latter being a place that would serve the company’s bright colorways well.
Vanunu sees the company’s distinction against other basics brands as being more fashion-focused and said he’s successfully built a brand with Cotton Citizen’s focus on editorial content online and social media to bolster not just the brand but its direct-to-consumer channel.
“It’s about making [customers] fall in love with the product before they even have the product, whether it’s a photo that we take or a video that we create or even just looking at our social media and seeing what we do day to day and having them relate to that,” Vanunu said. “That’s what’s so special these days. You can capture an audience or a customer without even having them try on a product, so by the time you get the product, they’re already in love with what you do.”