Brixton is hoping to raise its profile.
The Southern California-based headwear and apparel label has been operating under the radar since it was founded in 2004 by three friends from Oceanside, Calif., inspired by the coastal lifestyle. Its name comes from a song by the punk rock group The Clash, named after the neighborhood in south London, and its claim to fame was its newsboy hat that soon became a darling of the music industry.
In 2014, Brixton was acquired by Altamont Capital Partners, joining the Billibong surf brand and Dakine windsurfing label in the company’s consumer products group. Altamont brought in Raphael Peck, a veteran of Fanatics, Oakley and other brands, about 18 months ago to expand Brixton’s product offering, increase its penetration of women’s wear, open retail stores and grow wholesale.
An ambitious plan, but one that Peck is confident he can achieve.
In September, Brixton relaunched its web site and released an elevated Reserve collection of hats and apparel in premium fabrics. Next up is the brand’s first brick-and-mortar store in the U.S., a 980-square-foot shop on Highway 1010 in Encinitas, Calif., that is expected to open on or before Dec. 5. The store is designed to look like a vintage milliner and will offer hat customization services and fittings, steam cleaning and community events.
The store will also sell the brand’s collaboration with the estate of Joe Strummer of The Clash that came out last month, as well as a partnership with Fender that launches today.
The line with Fender, the world’s largest guitar manufacturer, will be a unisex collection of headwear with vintage-inspired designs. The collection will retail from $30 for a beanie to $119 for a fedora. To introduce the collaboration, Brixton has tapped the Grammy Award-winning psychedelic soul duo Black Pumas to feature in its campaign.
Davide Mattucci, Brixton’s vice president of brand marketing, said the collaboration brings the brand “back to our roots in music. With many seeking comfort in music this year, it lined up well to partner with The Black Pumas to help us launch this artist-inspired collection as we showcased their throwback take on modern music and style both on and off the stage.”
“We are always exploring how to connect with Fender fans in unique and unexpected ways,” said Dan Heitkemper, Fender’s vice president of licensing and product. “Our collaboration with Brixton on this headwear collection is a tip of the hat, so to speak, to the artists who have left a lasting impact on our culture and on music fans around the world.”
Peck said in addition to offering unique collaborations, or what he calls “friendly unions,” Brixton has a multipronged plan for growth. In addition to offering “good, better, best” product segmentation, women’s is a major focus. The category was introduced last year, he said, and immediately sold out. Right now, headwear accounts for half of all sales, evenly split between men’s and women’s product. In apparel, however, only 20 percent of sales are women’s.
“But half of the consumers who visit our web site are women,” Peck said, so he knows the possibility exists to further increase sales of the category with proper marketing and attention.
Creating “physical manifestations” of the Brixton brand through retail stores is also a priority. The company recently opened a “small test store” in Sydney, Australia, and Peck said it’s performing well. Plans call for adding two more next year in that country, which he said is a place with a high propensity for “Southern California fashion and sand between the toes. They’re cousins.”
Closer to home, Brixton will add a store in its hometown of Oceanside next, followed by three to four additional units next year. “Direct-to-consumer is a big part of our future,” he said. Right now, that channel represents less than 20 percent of sales and he hopes to increase that to between 35 and 40 percent.
“But there’s no benefit to growing direct-to-consumer at the expense of wholesale,” he said. The brand’s top wholesale customers include Nordstrom, Tilly’s, Zumiez and a large number on independent specialty stores.
“If you’re not growing both, you’re doing one or both a disservice,” he said. He especially sees opportunities to grow the wholesale channel in coastal communities on the East Coast.
Peck said unlike many private equity firms, Altamont has a long-term strategy for the brands it owns and it’s not their intent for him to quickly increase sales so it can be sold and the group can move on to the next opportunity. He said he made sure of that before he agreed to sign on, and since then, Altamont has continued to invest in the brand and “there’s no rush for any exit.”