DALLAS — Known for fashion inspired by Western heritage, Double D Ranch has evolved to offer embellished styles that seem more suitable for rock stars than cowgirls. Yet the company is still considered a Western label and doesn’t have much presence as a national brand.
In an effort to remedy that, the family-run firm is preparing a fall advertising campaign to thrust it onto the national stage and portray Double D purely as fashion and not ranchwear.
“We’ve been pushing the design; it’s really not Western,” said designer Cheryl McMullen. “Less than 10 percent of our stores are Western stores.”
McMullen started the business in 1989 with a Navajo-style Pendleton wool blanket jacket that was a quick success. Double D has since expanded to offer a 200-piece sportswear collection, Southwestern jewelry, leather handbags, belts, furniture and home furnishings such as pillows.
With McMullen in charge of design, her sisters, Audrey Franz and Hedy Carter, manage sales and production, respectively, while their mother, Margie McMullen, handles finance. Dad Doug McMullen was the first sales rep and gave the line its name, which stands for “Doug and Daughters.” He has retired and is devoted to collecting Harley-Davidson motorcycles. The family lives on ranches in and around Yoakum, Tex., population 7,249, and raises cattle branded with two interlocked Ds. The company occupies six buildings in downtown Yoakum, and manufactures in the U.S. as well as in China and India.
Expansion is driving Double D’s attempt to shake its authentic Western image. The firm does most of its $8 million in annual sales with about 450 specialty stores in the West and Midwest, as well as in Nordstrom in the Rocky Mountains and Dillard’s in the Southwest. Now its goal is to develop retail accounts on the East Coast.
Double D already has customers in the East, with 90 percent of sales from its two-year-old transactional Web site, ddranchwear.com, coming from such shoppers, many of whom have discovered the label while traveling, Franz noted.
To enhance the appeal to that demographic, Double D produced an edgy fall campaign shot in downtown Los Angeles by Larry Bartholomew. It has a rock ’n’ roll theme and the tag line, “Turn it up.” The images, such as a model reclining on a Harley in a leopard-print fur bolero, cropped top, jeans and an Indian beaded belt, are intended to catch a more urban audience.
“It’s a multipronged effort to drive new traffic to the Web, where we are creating a much more robust e-commerce site, and to get some East and West Coast retail presence,” explained Alan Lidgi, whose Lidgi Design agency produced the ads. The company plans to begin the campaign in the August issue of the New York Times Style Magazine.
An American history buff, Cheryl McMullen always has found ideas for her designs in books and her collections of Native American beadwork, pottery and dolls, as well as old quilts and vintage clothes and textiles. She’s now channeling embroidered Moroccan styles and jewelry once worn by Talitha Getty, Jim Morrison and Jimi Hendrix.
Although the line can be merchandised with a strong Southwestern feeling and is a favorite among women going to Western-themed charity galas, it also has chic items that could be at home anywhere, such as studded leather jackets or leather belts lavishly beaded with Native American motifs. A top seller in the fall sportswear collection is a lambsuede shirt with silver embroidery and crystals. It wholesales for $289. Double D also did well with an asymmetrical cotton skirt knitted in a zigzag pattern for $110, and a cognac leather jacket dotted with more than 2,000 studs for $349.
Among Double D’s key specialty accounts are Amen Wardy in Aspen, Colo.; Simply Santa Fe in Santa Fe, N.M.; Jackson Hole Clothiers in Jackson Hole, Wyo., and Fashion Reflection in Whitesboro, Tex.
Maverick, a high-end Western specialty store and saloon in the historic Fort Worth Stockyards, has bought Double D since the first collection.
“Double D is selling better for us than it ever has,” said Susie Ward, buyer. “Some of the knit things can go anywhere, while some pieces just punch some Western attitude. Western is so big and different than it has been before. It is funkier. That’s what we’re doing.”