GHOST FOCUSES ON GROWTH
Byline: James Fallon
LONDON — Ghost has the spirit of expansion.
The British women’s wear company will open a 3,500-square-foot freestanding store in Los Angeles on Friday, followed by a 600-square-foot unit in Paris next month.
Owner Tanya Sarne serendipitously found the Los Angeles site when she happened to drive by it during a visit and felt it would be perfect.
Another store will open later this year in Amsterdam, and Sarne is looking for more sites, perhaps including one in New York.
The new stores will be the company’s first wholly owned units outside the U.K. and underscore Ghost’s retail expansion. Up until now, Ghost has focused on wholesaling to department and specialty stores in the U.S., Europe and the Far East.
In U.S., Ghost’s largest market, the company wholesales to Barneys New York and Henri Bendel in New York, Theodore and Neiman Marcus in Los Angeles, Ultimo and Blakes in Chicago, Tootsies in Houston, Joan Shep and Knit Wit in Philadelphia and Caron Cherry in Bal Harbour, Fla.
Ghost, founded in 1984, had a worldwide wholesale volume of about $11.4 million in 1997, Sarne said. Total sales of the Ghost label worldwide at retail were about $39.1 million last year, she said.
The opening of the freestanding stores this month follows the opening last year of a two-floor, 3,500-square-foot flagship in Ledbury Road in the Notting Hill neighborhood of London. Ghost also opened a small store in London in 1994.
The Notting Hill store, which has served as the prototype for the Los Angeles and Paris units, has stone walls and rosewood floors and carries all the Ghost collections, including women’s wear, footwear and the home furnishings line, Ghost House.
It was the success of that store that led Sarne to open in Los Angeles.
“It was seeing how Ghost can look hanging in its own shop displaying the full range of colors,” Sarne said while sitting in Ghost’s studio and showroom in Notting Hill. “We have been amazed at how much business we do at the Notting Hill store, with everyone from Princess Michael of Kent to Madonna.”
Most shoppers there are looking for Ghost’s signature viscose fabrics, all of which are developed by Sarne and her design team, headed by Susanne Deeken, with Nicholas Knightly designing midseason collections to supplement the main line.
The fabrics are made of viscose yarns developed by Enka in Germany. Ghost’s success is partially based on the complicated production process. Each garment is made of gray cloth that is then washed, dyed and finished. The dyeing and finishing are vital elements of the design process because the true look of the garment results from the substantial and hard-to-predict shrinkage.
The result, Sarne said, is that each garment in a collection of 150 styles, 10 colors and four sizes has its own idiosyncrasies.
“We have a group of fabrics that are unique and that no one else does, mainly because they’re a pain to do,” she said. “But people do keep trying to copy us, which is another advantage of having our own stores. They raise our profile and help keep the copyists at bay.”
Ghost has found that having its own stores boosts its image in the U.K., where the line is sold at Harvey Nichols, Liberty, Browns and Matches.
“Most of the stores tend to buy the safe, basic pieces of the collection, while in our own shops we can sell what we did in the show,” Sarne said. “It’s great because it means we can sell both our basic and more adventurous pieces.”
The shops also are forcing Ghost to expand its collection to cover more categories.
Next spring and summer, there will be knitwear. Ghost has signed an eyewear license with Oliver Goldsmith and is introducing footwear for spring under its own label after several seasons of working with Gina Shoes in London to produce the Ghost for Gina line.
Ghost also has a fragrance deal in the pipeline and hopes to launch its first scent within a year to 18 months. Sarne declined to reveal the fragrance company she is negotiating with.
“We need to offer more things that fit the Ghost lifestyle, but we would never offer a complete wardrobe,” she said. “Women come to us for special things.”