“It’s been a wild year for us,” Solid & Striped’s chief executive officer Sarah Landman said over the phone.
Indeed it has. Despite the pandemic, the brand was able to strategically grow over the last year through collaborations (ranging from a swimwear capsule with Emily Oberg’s Sporty & Rich to footwear with Freedom Moses and accessories with Lele Sadoughi), a pop-up shop opening, wholesale distribution expansion and the launch of the Solid & Striped Sport activewear category. Now the brand is taking another stride forward with the introduction of ready-to-wear for resort 2022.
“I feel very fortunate we’ve been able to experience growth despite the pandemic. We’ve been really strategic in our growth initiatives throughout the pandemic. When we’ve released certain initiatives, we try to stay as flexible as possible and I think like many of our peers in the beginning — the first month of the pandemic we were sort of just crossing our fingers and hoping for the best. But we were honestly very fortunate in that our business is known for a swim and we were approaching summer. We are not an occasion brand, we were in a category people were still looking for and our price point is accessible. We had a campaign last summer that was the ‘backyard summer,’ and I think that really resonated with our customers,” Landman explained.
When COVID-19 hit, the brand adjusted launch dates, but continued to push forward with every collaboration they had planned. Although a few wholesale partners had to cancel orders early last year, they were still able to grow distribution; the brand is now in close to 400 distribution points. In addition, its Palm Beach, Fla. pop-up retail opening was a direct result of their New York customers’ changing lifestyles.
“When we realized our customers were moving — our biggest market, historically and still is, New York — there were so many New Yorkers relocating to southern Florida, we thought it was still important to stay in front of the customer,” Landman said, adding that the brand is planning a few smaller-scale retail pop-ups in the Hamptons this summer.
As a small business — an 18-person team — Landman cited flexibility as one of the biggest, and most important, qualities the brand learned to put at the forefront, in order to continually move forward over the last year.
“It’s a trait that I’ve had to use pre-pandemic, but through the whole thing, I made sure the team also went with the flow and remained flexible. Deliveries were never certain, so you had to be throughout the whole pandemic,” she said, adding, “That and being able to pivot quickly. For example, rtw. That was always a category we had planned to launch, but we ended up launching active a bit earlier. We swapped the two. Being able to pivot and react quickly.”
Although the rtw capsule was originally slated for spring 2021, the brand knew timing-wise, pushing sport forward first was the logical move, so they held the capsule for resort 2022.
“What we were looking to do was create a capsule that you could layer back to some of the beach, some of the swim, but not only wear on vacation. The end-use is city — go to work, go to dinner — or on vacation — what you’re wearing off the beach,” she explained. “We’ve always had a beachwear category that is cover-ups, and that sort of thing. There’s been an increasingly strong demand for, year-over-year — I think partially due to the pandemic — but we’ve also seen our customer has the appetite for more categories. Especially the beachwear that you can transition and wear to dinner, or off the beach. That was the importance to launch the category.”
The capsule collection itself is made up of a tightly edited grouping of 30 rtw styles priced between $98 and $298, with the average at $185. Historically in the brand’s beachwear category, knits have performed well, so resort includes a more evolved program, like color-blocked compact dresses and crop top skirt sets. The brand’s signature Anne-Marie maillot, which it launched with, was evolved into a crepe dress.
Other Solid & Striped signatures — stripes; color blocking; easy, breezy silhouettes with a timeless appeal — can be seen throughout. For instance, new poplin shirting (a little flounced blouse with panel details), pull-on trousers, and satin-back crepe frocks. Everything has an easy, pull-on appeal (influenced by the cozy dress of the pandemic) while still feeling put together. Regarding production and manufacturing, the line is produced in the same factories as the brand’s other collections — in Morocco, China and India, depending on the item.
As with everything the brand does, the plan for rtw is strategic. “Because we’re historically a swim business, not all of our retail partners would make sense to buy into the rtw assortment, so it’s definitely more focused. We want to make sure it’s the right partners that can support the category,” Landman said. She added the brand is working on its spring/summer retail assortment, with plans to debut new capsules four times a year.
“I hope that it is a permanent fixture, I expect it will be. We’re designing into spring and summer while planning on four collections a year. I think we’re going to continue learning from what’s working now and has in the past. We know that Solid & Striped has this timeless sensibility that will definitely carry through in rtw, and any category that we do.”