NEW YORK — With hipsters scavenging for vintage and retro looks, it’s fitting that the Original Penguin by Munsingwear label is back — and with its first store to boot.
This story first appeared in the November 6, 2003 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
“The Fifties, Sixties and Seventies were Original Penguin’s golden years,” said Chris Kolbe, vice president and brand manager for the company. “The whole store concept was to capture that American suburb feel of country clubs, old houses and grassy lawns.”
To that end, the company has taken a 2,000-square-foot space at 1077 Sixth Avenue and turned it into a high-end suburban home circa 1970. “Each area is meant to feel like a different room with a different feeling,” said Kolbe. “But we didn’t want to just recreate a ‘Leave It to Beaver’ living room.”
Instead, the company has furnished the store with vintage couches, rugs and chandeliers, and Danish modern-influenced wood panels. Additional old school touches include tiny bonsai trees and blown-up family portraits from those earlier eras. In order to cement the store’s hip, nostalgic ambience, the music it plays is exclusively from indie labels while the movies playing on the television in the back “living room” area are subversive classics like “Bottle Rocket,” “The Royal Tenenbaums” and “The Graduate.”
The brand, which is owned by Perry Ellis International, was revived almost a year ago with Kolbe at its helm. Now the line consists of knit polo shirts with the Penguin emblem, plaid and striped shirtings, shorts and pants, all with a distinctive retro feel yet refitted to reflect current fashion silhouettes.
Kolbe estimates that first-year store sales will hit anywhere from $1.5 million to $2 million “but with the entire women’s line arriving in February it might go a lot higher,” he said. According to Kolbe, there is a possibility of rolling out “a few more stores” yet there are no definitive plans.
The line wholesales to Barneys Co-op, Bloomingdale’s, Nordstrom, Urban Outfitters and other smaller specialty stores. Retail prices range from $45 for polos to $200 for outerwear jackets. “We’re trying to have a crossover appeal with better department stores to other pseudo-street stores like urban skate shops,” Kolbe said.