NEW YORK — Rag & Bone’s Marcus Wainwright and David Neville are putting their stamp on lower Manhattan, guerrilla-style. On Thursday, the duo unveiled a new marketing platform by plastering more than 1,000 posters on walls below 14th Street and pinning fliers against deli boards à la “Dan Smith Will Teach You Guitar.”
This isn’t some glossy campaign shot in a professional studio, though. The duo handed models Abbey Lee Kershaw, Edita Vilkeviciute, Sasha Pivovarova and Lily Aldridge a digital camera, and asked them to snap themselves in Rag & Bone clothes with total creative freedom. “We have always been very inspired by the girls who do the show,” Wainwright said. “Rather than do what every other brand does and have a high-end photographer take very polished shots, we thought, ‘Let’s flip it on its head to get the girls to take over.’ We wanted it to be very real.”
The campaign, developed with Laird + Co., is more than just an advertising effort — it’s also a branding exercise that draws attention to the firm’s just-launched e-commerce site, rag-bone.com, which features social networking and interactive elements. The site will have more images as well as video the models took with their cameras on location.
The design duo also asked staffers, friends of the house, fashion editors and bloggers to submit their own images for the site, which will be showcased in a gallery. Participants include Elettra Wiedemann, Details magazine’s Eugene Tong, Marie Claire’s Taylor Tomasi Hill, V’s Jay Massacret, Julia Frakes of Bunny Bisous and Sean Sullivan of The Impossible Cool. “It’s about real people and real clothes, clothes that we want people to wear and feel good in,” Neville said.
That formula has boded well for the designers. They created Rag & Bone in 2002, initially focusing on jeans but quickly evolving into a full women’s and men’s clothing collection with shoes, which were launched in 2009. The winners of last year’s CFDA Award for best men’s wear designer currently have five freestanding stores in New York, and wholesale to more than 400 doors nationwide. This spring, the firm is opening its first shop outside of Manhattan, a 1,500-square-foot boutique on 3067 M Street in Georgetown in Washington, D.C.
“We have taken some initiatives to grow internationally in the past year, after initially focusing on New York and America, which was great advice from our partner, [minority investor] Andrew Rosen,” Neville said. “Last year, we started to identify where we think we should put more attention.”
The duo is putting its bets on Japan, South Korea and their native U.K. as the first three points of expansion. Last November, Rag & Bone opened a freestanding store in Tokyo’s Omotesando neighborhood, and took part in a partnership between the Council of Fashion Designers of America and Samsung, selling their collection in a pop-up shop at 10 Corso Como in Seoul.
The designers, who declined to disclose sales projections, said that freestanding retail — currently 15 percent of the total business — could rise to 25 percent in the next two years. “We plan to open three more stores this year, including Georgetown,” Neville said, noting Boston as another potential location. “We would love to do more internationally. We have very high ambitions to be a global lifestyle brand, but we don’t want to push too much and go too fast.”