In January, Matchesfashion.com will add a new exclusive label to its stable of brands. Raey is the U.K.-based retailer’s new men’s and women’s private label collection, a rebranding of its previous women’s collection, Freda, which launched in 2007.
Tom and Ruth Chapman, the husband-and-wife founders and joint chief executive officers of the retailer, wanted to expand the line to men’s and define the collection’s fashion identity. “It’s much more youthful. It’s very clean, it’s very minimal, it’s very cool,” said Ruth. “The women’s wear has a really strongly masculine flavor but you still feel like a girl in it, and the boys’ is really focused on laid-back effortless wardrobe pieces.”
There’s a boxy white cotton top and slouchy, white wide-leg trousers, bright yellow and hot pink structured jackets and a crisp, midlength white shirtdress for women; gray cashmere tracksuits and navy tie-dye T-shirts for both sexes, and a hooded pinstripe parka and matching shorts for men.
The Chapmans are investing in the project — they hired a new design staff, headed by Rachael Proud, most recently design director at Christopher Kane, and prior to that a buyer at Topshop. “She’s crossed both worlds,” said Ruth. “Rachael’s worked in luxury fashion and she’s also worked in high-volume contemporary product and buying, so she’s done both roles.”
Proud also played a part in naming the collection. Finding a name that wasn’t taken in the IT and dot-com world was a challenge in itself, and the title had to appeal to men and women. “One night I just thought Raey with an ‘e’ in it and searched it, had the lawyers look into it and it was good,” said Ruth. “Rachael often gets called Ray by her friends and family, so we liked it and were feeling good and that it had enough attitude and modernity.”
There are no plans to wholesale Raey, at least not yet. The idea is to keep it a “stealth” collection for fashion insiders, as Ruth said.
The collection, produced for now in the U.K., is priced at the contemporary level — $105 for T-shirts; $475 for dresses; $1,600 for a men’s suede biker jacket — and the Chapman’s want it to appeal to their aspirational customers as well as the luxury shopper who wants to supplement directional runway pieces with easy edge. “We have this very engaged, very loyal customer whose shopping with us, so it feels it would be lazy not to do it really,” said Ruth, noting that the feedback delivered by Matchesfashion.com’s merchandising departments on what sells and at what price makes it easy to target and develop the private label collection.
Matchesfashion.com has been raising its profile in the last couple of years. The 25-year-old mini-chain launched as Matches in 1987 and re-branded as Matchesfashion.com in 2013 to underscore its rapidly growing international e-commerce business, which ships to more than 190 countries and accounts for 70 percent of the store’s business. Its number-one market is still the U.K., with an increased focus on the U.S. Matchesfashion.com, which began hosting a press day in New York last season, has talked about the possibility of an American brick-and-mortar store in the future, though Ruth said there are no concrete plans.