NEW YORK — Savania Davies-Keiller and Roberto Crivello, co-founders of DDC USA, a design firm that has collaborated with companies such as DuPont, BMW and Gap, have strengthened their two-year partnership with New Balance.
Davies-Keiller said the deal gives them what they want: “Total independence, but with full support.”
Because of this strategic relationship, the DDCLab brand, a women’s and men’s apparel line that integrates technology and fashion, is now able to grow in the way Davies-Keiller and Crivello have intended since the company’s inception in 1997. As the brand moves forward, it will reenter wholesale distribution and open its own stores at a growth of two units per year. In addition, plans are under way to show the fall 2006 collection during New York Fashion Week in February.
“We now have a true growth plan,” said Crivello, seated at the conference table in the DDCLab workshop in SoHo here, home to the design shop, showcase store and a mini cafe. “We’ve worked with the giants, but the great thing about New Balance is it’s really hands-off. It’s really like they’re saying, ‘Let them do what they do best.'”
DDCLab provides cutting-edge fashion infused with technological fabrics and treatments. Last year, for instance, DDCLab created a jacket made from cork. To date, 20 custom-made pieces have been sold.
“It was washable, yet indestructible,” Crivello said.
This fall, the brand continues to provide the same aesthetic. An antiradiation jacket is part of the fall collection. The jacket, lined with high-tech thermal padding, shields the wearer from harmful radiation possibly emitted from cell phones or laptops.
“We’re always asking ourselves, ‘What’s new?’ or ‘How can we challenge ourselves?'” Crivello said.
When the brand launched it catered to an underground, affluent consumer. David Bowie, Lou Reed, Jerry Bruckheimer and Michael Stipe are among the loyal fans. Even though the brand has acquired a larger following through the years, the type of consumer has remained consistent. “It’s a choosy consumer,” Davies-Keiller said.
Crivello said skeptics labeled him and Davies-Keiller “crazy” when in 1998 DDCLab incorporated organic, selvage denim or soy-based sweaters and climate-control jackets that retailed for $200.
“You have to offer the consumer something of quality,” Davies-Keiller said. “Otherwise, why invest in it?”
Now, after a two-year lapse, the brand is reentering the wholesale business and will distribute to select boutiques globally. The average wholesale price is roughly $248.
“The idea is to open accounts in key cities and build relationships there to showcase the brand,” Crivello said. “We want to find partners.”
While Davies-Keiller and Crivello declined to say what the projected wholesale volume would reach, Crivello said that he would like to see wholesale and retail volume split evenly.
“We truly need to grow it organically,” Davies-Keiller noted. “In order to continue to get the message to consumers, we need to show the brand from top to bottom and that’s accomplished only through quality vendors. We handpick the buyers.”
In 1997, the first DDCLab store opened on Orchard Street on the Lower East Side here. In 2003, the store moved north, to 427 West 14th Street in the Meatpacking District. From there, Davies-Keiller and Crivello want to expand to SoHo. By November, they hope to have secured a space in Los Angeles. A short list of cities where they would like to open freestanding boutiques includes San Francisco, Las Vegas and London.
“The potential to do anything we want is truly there,” Crivello said.
“Our goal is to simply deliver a different point of view,” Davies-Keiller added.