PSYCHO COWBOY: QU’EST-CE QUE C’ EST?

Byline: David Grant Caplan

NEW YORK — Their moniker may sound schizophrenic, but the folks over at Denmark’s Psycho Cowboy Brand have a plan that is anything but wacky.
The company, which launched in 1993 as a male-oriented skateboarder streetwear label, is now trying to beef up its presence in the women’s business.
About 10 percent of its spring 2001 merchandise is women’s, double the amount that it was last year. By fall, the company expects women’s styles to represent 20 percent of its offerings.
The move is an acknowledgement of the broadening appeal of streetwear and the need to attract more women to the brand, said chief executive officer Torben Varming.
“We saw that streetwear was going more mainstream and that more skaters were girls, so for spring we have a much fuller collection of jeans, shirts, sweatshirts and knitwear,” Varming said.
After Psycho Cowboy was founded by its parent company 2 x Hans Mode, its trademark baggy jeans and loose-fitting sweatshirts — most of which were for men — became staples among European teenagers and twentysomethings who were part of the Continent’s burgeoning skateboarding scene.
The Psycho Cowboy women’s collection includes low-rise flares and slim fits, both in several washes. The line also includes knit tops and neoprene jackets.
Varming said there are no women’s relaxed fits because “the hardcore skater goes for [men’s] baggy,” regardless of gender.
“We’ve been taking a lot of notice of what our customers and what the people in stores say, and they say we don’t need baggy jeans for women because they go take the same thing for men,” he said. “It’s not that all of the styles that we have for men are worn by women, but they just seem to pick up the baggy jeans.”
At Toronto’s Due West Clothing Co., one of nine stores in Canada that carry the brand, manager George Moumouris said he has noticed that female customers have no qualms about slipping into a pair of men’s jeans.
“I have found a lot of girls in the men’s pants,” said Moumouris, whose store also carries Diesel, Miss Sixty and Replay. “They were buying the extra-small size and it was totally men’s looking but they like that boy-look.”
Moumouris, who received his spring shipment last week, said his female customers “love” the brand, so he is eager for Psycho Cowboy to increase its women’s offerings.
A few thousand miles to the west, in Vancouver, British Columbia, Zero Gravity Clothing Co. manager Sara Gordon echoed her colleague’s sentiments.
“We’ve had a really good response to their women’s wear so I am definitely into getting more of their women’s line,” she said.
The average retail price of a pair of Psycho Cowboy jeans in Denmark, and most of Europe, is the equivalent of $75. (Prices were converted from the Danish krone at current exchange rates.)
At New York’s Metropolis, one of seven stores that sells Psycho Cowboy in the U.S, the jeans retail for about $100.
Due West’s Moumouris said Psycho Cowboy is the store’s “number-one-selling brand and it takes up about 10 percent of floor sales space.”
He said that the city’s “hipper people that travel through Europe” are the customers most often in search of the Danish company’s Italian-made jeans — an observation echoed by other retailers.
“A lot of people from Europe and those who have visited there come asking for it,” said Ethan Saito, the manager of Metropolis, which started to carry Psycho Cowboy two years ago.
Zero Gravity’s Gordon added, “Most of the people that have been to Europe are familiar with it and they are totally into it.”
Despite its reputation among Euro-chic denim aficionados Stateside, the eight-year-old label has no concrete plans to expand far beyond the half-dozen or so stores that currently carry the brand in the U.S.
Still, it isn’t ruling out modest expansion in this country. While it does not have a North American sales representative, it did send two employees this week to the Magic International show in Las Vegas to represent the brand.
Varming said, “We have this idea that we would like to be in the big cities like New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco.” He said as long as “the store is OK and they have a nice attitude,” he has no qualms about signing on a new distributor.
Varming said rapid North American expansion does not appeal to him because such a move may damage his solid “family-like” relationship with retailers.
“We’re not going to have an American agent and push and push, because if we go out and do that and just sell like crazy, we can’t keep the good relationship we have between the stores and our office,” he said. “We’re like a family so we don’t want to be huge so that we don’t know each other. We want to be able to give good service and if we expand too much or too fast, you can’t give that service — so we take it slow and easy.”
While there are only 16 stores in North America that carry Psycho Cowboy, it is available in nearly 1,000 stores in Europe. It is also sold in five stores in Japan, one in Hong Kong and 13 in Australia.
In addition to his desire to keep his “family” tight-knit, Varming is reluctant to increase the company’s North American-bound exports because of the costs incurred from duties and taxes.
He said the company has also refrained from entering the Latin American market because of import duties.
Also, the company has opted not to sell its wares online. Instead it relies on third-party sites such as Boo.com and 3sixtynow.com to sell a smattering of the firm’s streetwear offerings.
Varming said he believed an e-commerce initiative would threaten the livelihood of its smaller accounts in Denmark.
“It would be very nice to get customers in Latin America or in North America where we are not located,” he said, “but in Denmark, if customers can buy it from the Internet, it will take something away from store.”
Varming has also remained resistant in recent years to advertising in U.S. publications, but he is starting to change his tune. He said he is considering expanding the company’s advertising in U.S. fashion magazines, such as Vogue and GQ, as the brand becomes more fashion-oriented and sought after in North America.
Psycho Cowboy has managed to grab the attention of U.S. hipsters, though, by advertising in European magazines, such as style bibles Wallpaper, Dazed & Confused and I.D., many of which have a strong North American readership.
“What we do is we use mainly magazines which have a distribution that’s worldwide, like I.D.” Varming said. “When we get e-mail I am told that most refer to the ad in I.D.”

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