POOLE JUMPS INTO WOMEN’S
LONDON — It was only a matter of time before funky clubwear designer Daniel Poole moved into women’s sportswear.
The 36-year-old men’s wear designer, who will create women’s apparel for next fall, is known for his high tech designs in unusual materials and prints, such as the reflective fabrics worn by emergency workers, microfibers, nylon lined with sheepskin and tribal icons, as well as more traditional cotton denim and fleece.
Although he’s been designing for men, he’s been thinking about women for a while, he said.
“Many of our styles are unisex, but we’ve always been asked to do a women’s line,” Poole said. “It will be different from the men’s because I like women to look really sexy.”
Of course, Poole’s idea of sexy is a little offbeat. He said one of his female role models is the post-apocalyptic comic book character Tank Girl, who, he said, wears a tiny miniskirt, but packs a machine gun.
The women’s collection, the latest expansion for the three-year-old company, will be in the stores for fall 1995. It will include about 35 styles of jeans, jackets, tops and skirts; will wholesale from $15 for T-shirts to $150 for jackets, and will be sold through the same distribution channels as his men’s collection.
Poole’s North American distributor is Typhoon International. His men’s wear is carried by Barneys New York, Fred Segal, Detour, London Underground and Patricia Field in the U.S.
The company’s 1994 annual sales will be about $4.7 million (3 million pounds). Daniel Poole Jeans, a unisex line using some of his unusual fabrics, was introduced last summer with the aim of reaching more department stores and a broader consumer base, but Poole said the jeans in the new line are designed specifically for women.
Poole’s reputation is based on a series of forward-looking collections with such themes as Ghetto Couture, Techno-Couture, World Safety Systems, Techno-Tribal, Trapper and, most recently, Sport Technic.
Poole, who does two collections a year, said his designs are aimed at people aged 20 to 30, but he stressed the clothes are not strictly for the trend-hungry clubgoers.
“We like to think our customer puts the garments on in the morning — and takes them off a few days later,” Poole only half-joked, pointing out that he sees his clothes being worn around the clock.
Prior to launching his own label, Poole was a freelance designer for such firms as H.&M. Hennes, The Burton Group and C&A. About nine years ago he set up a partnership, Daniel Poole, that eventually had 60 shops-in-stores in The Burton Group in the United Kingdom, 100 employees, a factory in Ireland and sales of about $10 million a year.
But the recession caused that venture to collapse. Poole split with his partner to form his current company, also known as Daniel Poole, and he now subcontracts all production to companies in the Far East, Europe and the U.S., where he will begin printing his T-shirts this year and where he hopes to make other products once his volume increases. This, he believes, will reduce his wholesale prices and thereby help build his U.S. sales. For the long run, Poole hopes to open more shops — he currently has a store here and one in Paris — and to license some of his collections, including the jeans line and the Sport Technic label.
“It would be nice to find a big sports company that would be interested in expanding that area, since it is functional clothing that also can be worn as fashion,” he said. “The sports companies like Nike or Adidas have barely scratched the surface in that market.” Whatever his next moves, Poole said he has learned from the collapse of his last company. He has made sure the manufacturers and distributors for his 600 accounts worldwide are capable of taking on the women’s line, for example, so there will be no problems with deliveries.
“We’ve held back our development until everything was in place,” the designer said. “The women’s line should double our sales in 1995 and we have the setup to handle that. My goal is to be big; I’d like to have a $30 million to $40 million company some day.
“We have this maverick reputation because of the kind of clothes we do,” Poole added. “But we’re not loonies. We’re running a business.”