ENYCE’S NEW NICHE
LADY ENYCE IS TAKING A CONTROLLED APPROACH TO GROWTH.
Byline: Melanie Kletter
NEW YORK — In the race to become fashion’s next megabrand, Lady Enyce is taking its time.
Unlike many up-and-coming apparel firms who are frantically signing licensing arrangements and plastering their name across a host of categories, Lady Enyce (pronounced Eh-NEE-chay), sister of the men’s wear company Enyce, doesn’t have any licenses and there are no plans for any in the near future.
“We are OK by not trying to be the biggest company,” said Evan Davis, senior vice president and one of Enyce’s founders. “We want to take it slow and slowly build our brand. We don’t want to make the brand too broad before its ready.”
Lady Enyce, launched at retail nearly two years ago, was one of the first junior lines to evolve out of the explosive urban young men’s market, and it has quickly made a name for itself in the burgeoning scene of crossover brands. Other firms that have their roots in the young men’s arena, such as Phat Farm, Mecca, Ecko Unlimited, Karl Kani and Triple Five Soul, have also added women’s lines to their offerings and are working to establish themselves as junior brands and figure out the best way to tap into the women’s market.
While its roots are in men’s, Lady Enyce apparel is markedly different than Enyce, which is characterized by looser, baggier and more utilitarian looks. For spring, the women’s line is denim driven, with much of the apparel tight and cropped, and includes plenty of novelty items and embellished looks. Some specialty fabrics include denim embossed with coated faux crocodile, dip-dyed knit pants, painted leather and sweater knit dresses.
As it has grown, Lady Enyce, has diversified its business into a broader range of price points which can target a wider range of retailers. Retail prices for denim range from about $52 to $70, with some special items garnering prices around $250 to $500. Tops run from $38 to $60.
In an interview at Enyce’s spacious headquarters on 40th Street in Manhattan, Davis quickly pointed out that the company’s women’s business is not a reflection of the men’s brand.
“They are totally separate from each other,” he said. “The women’s line has its own personality.”
While Enyce and some other firms are often identified as urban brands, Lady Enyce doesn’t embrace that label and doesn’t dwell on the issue.
“I try to stay away from stereotypes,” said Davis, a native of the Queens section of New York. “We are urban only in the fact that we distribute our product in stores in inner cities.”
Lady Enyce now accounts for about 25 percent of Enyce’s overall business, according to Davis. Sales at Lady Enyce are on track to hit $10 million this year and $15 million in 2001.
Lady Enyce’s executives have specifically tried to keep the distribution tight. While the men’s business is carried in department stores such as Bloomingdale’s and Nordstrom, the women’s line is finding its niche in specialty chains. The line is now sold in about 150 doors, primarily in stores such as Mony, the women’s specialty concept started by the owners of Jimmy Jazz, as well as larger retailers such as d.e.m.o., the urban-oriented retail chain owned by Pacific Sunwear of California, and Mr. Rags, the young men’s and junior chain owned by Claire’s Stores.
Davis said he is interested in taking the brand into other locations, including mall-based retailers such as The Buckle, the publicly held teen specialty chain based in Kearney, Neb.
“We are carefully taking on new distribution partners,” Davis said. “It has to be right. Also, we are waiting for the expansion of some of our existing distribution partners.”
While Enyce is only four years old, the company is an established part of the young men’s apparel scene.
Davis and his partners, Lando Felix and Tony Shellman, had some experience in the business prior to starting the Enyce label. The trio created the Mecca line in 1995 as a partnership with Seattle-based International News, a young men’s company, and then decided to launch Enyce as a broader, lifestyle line for young men.
The partners created Enyce as a subsidiary of Fila SpA, which provides financial backing, although Davis said Enyce is run as its own entity and is autonomous in terms of design, sales and distribution.
After establishing Enyce in the men’s market, the firm began to tap into the demand it was seeing from young women. Lady Enyce targets a fashion-forward customer aged 15 to 28, with the average age of about 20, Davis noted, and its customers are highly trend conscious and take their cues from performers in the music scene.
Entering the women’s arena has been a learning experience for the firm.
“The fashions are faster, the trends are shorter and there is more room for error in the design,” Davis said. “The women’s branded business is a lot more difficult to predict and there is so much more competition.”
Fit, one of the most crucial elements in the women’s market, is of prime importance for the brand, and Lisa Miyakado, the designer and creative director behind Lady Enyce, said the company’s designers spend a lot of time finding the right fits for its offerings.
“It is long and hard to find the right fit,” she admitted. “Even a quarter of an inch can make a difference.”
Much of the offerings are still logo driven and some pieces feature creative placement of the logo in areas such as across the seat of the pants. Denim now represents about 40 percent of the women’s offerings, reflecting the current strength in that category, said Davis.
“The line has a breadth to it, which gives it a broader reach,” noted Izzy Izrailson, founder and president of Up Against of the Wall, a Washington, D.C.-based specialty chain that carries the line.
The majority of production is done overseas, with about 10 percent done domestically.
While the line remains trendy, the company also has certain elements that are more basic in nature, and is introducing more lower-priced items that can appeal to mall retailers.
At the same time, for spring the company also has introduced its highest price point item ever with a limited-edition handpainted jacket that retails for about $500.
The firm also has done some accessories and tested one shoe style for summer, but there are no other categories planned at the moment.
“We are not going to set up something like a bathing suit division,” Davis said. “We want to keep it in house.”
Even its advertising is extremely controlled. The company only advertises in a few publications and has mainly grown through word of mouth and association with high-profile music stars who wear its apparel.
Up Against the Wall’s Izrailson noted, “The brand has communication appeal.”