John Elliott is taking the plunge.
The West Coast-based designer, who has carved out a niche in the men’s arena since launching his athletically skewed luxury streetwear collection in 2013, will show his first women’s collection at New York Fashion Week in February.
Elliott is jumping from the men’s-specific part of the calendar to the women’s dates and will show the dual-gender line on the runway on Monday, Feb. 12 at 10:00 a.m. New York Fashion Week: Men’s will kick off a 10-day week on Feb. 5-7.
Hints that Elliott was considering getting into women’s wear surfaced earlier this year when he featured a woman in his spring advertising campaign wearing a drapey silk blouson men’s shirt. Many of his men’s looks are androgynous and have long appealed to women.
“That was when we started working on it,” Elliott admitted during a phone interview from Tokyo where he was working on fabric development. “We wanted to breadcrumb the idea that this was possible.”
The ad campaign allowed him to “open the door,” he said, and begin exploring another facet of the fashion world. “I’m curious and like to explore new things.”
The women’s collection will be an entire lifestyle offering, he said, ranging from denim, knitwear and cut-and-sewn to outerwear and even some eveningwear.
“This will be the first time we’re going to show a full collection of men’s and women’s — all categories. It’s been quite the undertaking to get here,” he said.
Elliott said jumping into women’s wear is “difficult and humbling but exciting at the same time. It’s like starting a whole other business.” But his team was also energized about trying their hand at something new and “rose to the occasion.”
He realizes that women’s wear is more competitive and faster-moving than men’s, but he believes he’s up to the challenge. “It took over a year to build the line and we’re excited about our point of view and what it means to do women’s. So we’re cautiously optimistic that it’ll be well received.”
Elliott said he expects the denim, knits and cut-and-sewns — “the categories where we have a competitive edge” — to be the most popular right out of the box. And these pieces can then serve as the basis to build a full look.
“The John Elliott girl is very much an extension of the John Elliott guy,” he said. “She’s looking for essentials she can invest in that will be relevant in the moment as well as in two years.”
He expects his women’s collection to fill what he sees as a void in the contemporary market. “What we can do in denim, cut-and-sewns and knits speak to a girls’ wardrobe every day, but nobody is doing it extremely well right now,” he said. “And we have so many new ideas and fabrics that we have developed over the past year.”
At the show, he said he expects the men’s and women’s line to be equally represented, although that’s not been decided yet and men’s may have a few more looks.
What is certain, however, is that the show will serve to showcase a number of collaborations that Elliott wanted to keep under wraps at this point. “We’ll reveal them on the day of the show,” he said.
One exception is Nike, an ongoing partnership that will continue next season. “That’s very dear to my heart since I was a kid sending them letters at seven years old.”
His first NikeLab collab, a minimalistic take on the Vandal sneaker, sold out in 12 seconds in June prompting an online raffle to be instituted for the second iteration in October, according to Highsnobiety.
Since starting his brand four years ago, John Elliott has managed to transform basics into relaxed-fit essentials that have drawn the attention of influencers such as Kanye West, Victor Cruz and J.R. Smith.
Growing up in Northern California in the early Nineties, Elliott said only two things mattered: basketball and skateboarding, the latter of which ultimately became the passion that would impact his future.
He got his start in fashion by working at Villains, a well-known streetwear store in San Francisco, before working in wholesale in Los Angeles, and even operating his own store for a while. All the while, Elliott collected items like vintage jeans and T-shirts and Champion hoodies in anticipation of eventually starting his own label.
He teamed with Aaron Lavee, his best friend and former math tutor from high school, to launch John Elliott + Co. — the company has since dropped the + Co. — starting with basic denim and T-shirts, French terry and a Villain hoodie with a side-zip and interior kangaroo pocket.
The brand quickly caught the attention of retailers including Bergdorf Goodman, Barneys New York and Saks Fifth Avenue, and the label now counts around 70 retail accounts worldwide as well as a strong e-commerce business.
While he has established himself as a force in men’s wear over the past four years — he showed his men’s collection during Paris Fashion Week in June — women’s wear is a whole other animal.
“We are definitely back to being the underdog,” he said. “And I’m OK with that role. My dad always said that interesting people live outside their comfort zone and that’s what I’ll be doing in February.”