In 2016, WWD posed the question: Can urban streetwear brands make a comeback?
Karl Kani never left — the brand operates 10 stores in Japan and its biggest markets consist of Germany, Switzerland and Amsterdam — but much like other heritage streetwear brands, its presence in the U.S. isn’t what it used to be.
At its height, Karl Kani was sold in around 400 retailers, ranging from Macy’s to Foot Locker, and while Kani still wholesales to a handful of stores including Urban Outfitters and Dr. Jays, he understands that he’s working in a new retail climate.
“Back in the day you had retailers like Merry Go Round and they had great credit and they could write you a $2 million order, but those days don’t exist anymore,” Kani said.
Given that, Kani is aligning himself with PrettyLittleThing, an online women’s retailer based in the U.K., on a capsule collection that will be available to purchase today. Kani is dipping into his heritage but modernizing the fits for women, which was never a strong focus for his brand. The line includes cropped jerseys and denim jackets, tracksuits, bodysuits, denim shorts, rompers, bralettes and T-shirt dresses. Teyana Taylor, an entertainer who has found a niche in Nineties nostalgia, is the face of the campaign.
He’s also attempting to make the brand more accessible. It retails from $15 to $60 and is priced 35 to 40 percent less than his own assortment. There will be no physical activations for the release and it won’t be restocked, but there are plans to do more collections down the line.
“We want to touch more consumers,” Kani said. “We understand that the days of girls spending $250 on a pair of True Religion or Seven jeans are over.”
Umar Kamani, chief executive officer of PrettyLittleThing, whose father, Mahmud Abdullah, cofounded Boohoo.com, started the brand with his brother, Adam Kamani, in 2012 — Boohoo acquired it in 2016. He met Kani at a PrettyLittleThing event and the relationship developed from there.
“It connects two eras of fashion and two different worlds,” said Kamani, who was wearing an orange Karl Kani vest and traveling with a photographer and videographer. “For me and for Karl, it was exciting to present something that wasn’t expected to the consumer.”
PrettyLittleThing entered the U.S. in 2015, and Kamani said the region is its second largest market after the U.K. It is opening a headquarters and influencer lounge space at 8587 Melrose Avenue this year. PrettyLittleThing is one of the many women’s e-commerce brands that’s making affordable clothes aspirational by partnering with influencers such as Kourtney Kardashian, Olivia Culpo and Sofia Richie. When asked how PrettyLittleThing is differentiating itself from Fashion Nova, which has a similar business model and marketing strategy, Kamani practically bristled at the comparison.
“PrettyLittleThing is a brand, we aren’t an online web site,” Kamani said. “That’s just a web site that sells clothes and they aren’t building a culture and they aren’t building something that is going to survive. Whereas PrettyLittleThing is a brand that’s evolving and it’s here for the long run. We really care about what the customer wants and needs and making everything accessible to the customer. I don’t even like to be compared to them because I feel like it’s an insult to what PrettyLittleThing is trying to do. I think we are a much more personable brand.”