Whether they originated on the streets of New York City or the California beaches, there is one thing this year’s top 10 list of young contemporary brands has in common — they each stick to what they do and know best, without venturing into too-unfamiliar territory.
Top-ranked Disney has moved well beyond Mickey to bank on the ready-made audience for all of its characters. The company’s consumer products division sells everything from Cinderella slippers to Peter Pan collectibles in each of its 550 Disney Stores worldwide, as well as with its wholesale partners.
Same goes for Looney Tunes, at number four. While the Warner Bros. Consumer Products division has closed all of its freestanding stores, the company drives $6 billion worth of business through its relationships with such retailers as Target, Kmart, J.C. Penney and Wal-Mart.
While Los Angeles-based Guess continues to see declines in its wholesale business, the brand is still recognizable enough to rank at number two on this year’s list. The denim-heavy brand has made a name for itself through its 246 company-owned stores and aggressive ad placements in high-end fashion magazines like Vogue and W. The brand’s unmistakably provocative image owes much to its campaigns, overrun with pouty-lipped, sultry-eyed models spilling out of their Guess attire.
The Columbus, Ohio-based retail chain Express also relies on denim-heavy fashion with a sexy flair. While it is now just over a $1 billion company, executives there have said it can ultimately be a $4 billion or $5 billion chain.
Many know Esprit, which ranks at number three, as it was back in the day of those eye-catching ads. Today, while it still capitalizes on the fresh-faced, clean-livin’ California lifestyle it has projected since its launch, it wasn’t until last year that it made its way back to American soil following a foray during the Nineties into Europe and Asia. It is rolling out a full complement of lines in addition to juniors, including men’s wear, women’s wear, children’s wear and accessories.
Also playing off the laid-back, sunny lifestyle are Ocean Pacific, Mossimo and Hang Ten, which fall at numbers six, eight and nine on the list.
Despite a bankruptcy in 1991, Ocean Pacific remains a force among other brands in the lucrative surf-lifestyle market. Today, the San Francisco-based brand brings in over $200 million annually.
Mossimo Inc.’s licensing deal with Target has helped the brand become a strong force in the young contemporary market. The Santa Monica, Calif.-based company’s annual sales at Target rose to nearly $1 billion last year, causing the firm to extend its agreement with the discounter until Jan. 31, 2006. It also recently inked a deal with Zellers in Canada, where the brand can be found in all of its 350 stores. But it’s the designer’s loyalty to its roots that keeps the company afloat. Offering consumers price-friendly clothing, bath and body products and accessories representing the California lifestyle has been its strategy from the start.
Like Op, Hang Ten’s philosophy is also surfer-centric. Now known as a licensing entity, the brand has well over 100 licenses worldwide, most recently signing one with Riviera Concepts for a fragrance. Hang Ten tallies more than 400 freestanding stores worldwide and $710 million in sales.
B.U.M. Equipment got its start in 1986, when a Seattleite named Derrik Feddermann took to his garage to crank out high-quality sweatshirts printed with meaningless phrases. When first-year orders tallied $3 million, Feddermann knew he had something big on his hands. It is owned and operated by the Mendham, N.J.-based SOS Management and has morphed into a licensing company which spends some of its promotional dollars outfitting sports celebrities.
Finally, Fubu ranks at number 10 on this year’s list. While there are more streetwear labels on the market than ever, it’s the $400 million Fubu brand that remains the most recognizable. Fubu’s 15-plus clothing lines have led the company to expand into a multimedia conglomerate, which includes FB Entertainment, the umbrella organization for the company’s ventures into movies, TV and music.
4. Looney Tunes/Warner Bros.
5. B.U.M. Equipment
6. Ocean Pacific
9. Hang Ten