PARIS — Yoga pants and joggers are just a couple of the hip bottom categories edging in on denim territory in recent years. Now Mikael Söderlindh is throwing his hat into the ring with his latest mono-product concept The Cords & Co., billed as the world’s first premium corduroy fashion brand.The Swedish entrepreneur, who in January sold his colorful Happy Socks business to Palamon Capital Partners for $81.2 million, has big ambitions for The Cords & Co., which today marks its international launch with the opening of a global online store and two physical stores in Stockholm, where the brand's design studio is based. “We will be the alternative to denim….Denim has gone on and on, and the market is looking for an alternative," he said.A week later, on Aug. 31, flagships are set to open on L.A.’s Abbot Kinney Boulevard, as well as in key locations in the Marais and Soho districts in Paris and London, followed by a store in New York’s SoHo district on September 7. The brand is also working with a selection of retail partners in 20 international markets, including Galeries Lafayette, Bergdorf Goodman and Anthropologie.For Söderlindh, the brand’s founder and majority owner, specialization in fashion is “going to be the future.”“If I want to go and buy meat, I’m going to the best meat store in the town, I don’t want to go to a convenience store that has everything.” In terms of potential, “We see this being a considerable business very quick,” he added in an interview during the run-up to the launch.Offering separate men’s and women’s lines focused solely on corduroy, including crossover garments, the collection, explained chief executive officer Omar Varts, is built around the iconic five-pocket pant, going from traditional extensions above the waist like jackets to more experimental applications like spins on jersey silhouettes, including a corduroy hoodie. Examples include a corduroy version of the classic M65 fishtail parka, leopard and camouflage print corduroy in different washes and indigo corduroy with a five-pocket denim-like fit. The brand has been working with a boutique mill in Japan to develop exclusive indigo corduroy and velvet fabrics that will be introduced later this year.Women’s styles include dungarees, kick flares and the ubiquitous skinny and boyfriend fits. Headed by multidisciplinary designer Linnéa Bach Gärde, who also has experience in interiors, the design studio has been experimenting with applications, printing, embroidery and wale widths, “exploring the versatility and durability of the fabrication, and the origins of the fabric and the weaving process which date back to [ancient Egypt].”Originally a royal cloth, corduroy was later adopted for workwear due to its durability, explained Varts, adding that the team has been researching corduroy’s cultural timeline across the last century, looking at associations in art and music, and players from certain key moments of history who wore cords.“There are a lot of reference points for the fabric itself both in and outside of the industry. The first Ford Model T was introduced with a corduroy interior so there are multiple applications we can explore," added Varts. "The engagements we are already making for long-term exploration of the creative process is certainly outside of the fashion industry. We’re working already with a great group of artists and musicians, we’re starting to talk to people from the textiles and furniture domains. This idea has infinite potential to explore.”Hook-ups will be part of the brand’s DNA, according to Söderlindh, with collaborations with brands including Alpha Industries, Eastpak and DJ Harvey in the works. “We like the idea of cross-pollination. If you compare a brand to an individual, an individual who is likable is going to meet a lot of different people, they’re going to be sociable and outgoing and our brand plays around with a lot of different brands," he said.
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