Johnny Was

Johnny Was has launched into swim in a move outlined a little over a year ago by its chief executive officer, who is looking to grow the business through new categories and store expansion.

Private equity firm Endeavour Capital a little more than three years ago invested in the business, which was founded in 1987, with the new capital fueling this latest growth strategy.

The latest example of this is Friday’s launch of swimwear for resort 2019. The offering will be rolled out to some 150 specialty stores in addition to Neiman Marcus, which is serving as the exclusive luxury major partner for the launch.

The 25-piece collection, which is being produced in-house rather than through a licensing firm, offers sizes up to 3X. That’s the same ceiling as the ready-to-wear line. Retail pricing ranges from $88 to $298.

The extension into swim was an obvious one for the brand, which has built a business around color, print and embroidery, said vice president of wholesale sales and merchandising Meg Doepke.

“Our customers have been asking us to do that for years and we did see a void in the market for colorful, flattering swimwear that fits real women, but doesn’t look too matronly,” Doepke went on to say. “So there seemed to be an opportunity in the market.”

Doepke estimated swim could account for about 5 percent of the overall business with opportunity for what she said is “meaningful growth.” She also cited potential in the handbags category as another avenue to help grow the business.

Last year Johnny Was launched the sustainable brand Calme Organics in addition to denim. That same year, the company opened 10 stores and this year 11. Plans call for another 15 to be opened next year, expanding the brand into markets such as Hawaii, Denver and Chicago.

The company has sales in excess of $100 million with the brand distributed in roughly 1,400 accounts, including Neiman Marcus and Bloomingdale’s.

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