LOS ANGELES — St. John Knits Inc. is relaunching St. John Sport to address the activewear trend.

The more casual offering from the Irvine, Calif.-based luxury brand returns with a modern touch that launches in conjunction with the resort 2017 collection.

“We don’t see ourselves as ath-leisure here,” said St. John chief executive officer, president and chief operating officer Bruce Fetter by way of clarifying any potential confusion with the line’s relaunch or motivation behind it.

But the move does beg the question as to why, with the company having tried its hand at St. John Sport in the past, it’s embarking on the casual journey once again.

“St. John has had a sport line in the past,” Fetter admitted. “It was and has always been an important part of the business, initially starting as almost a kind of dressy, casual sweatsuit for Marie Gray to travel and grew to be a very significant part of our business, so we are considering this a relaunch. We’ve had a component of casual lifestyle as part of our collection for the past several years but really came to the realization that it wasn’t enough to really meet the needs of our clients.”

The relaunch of St. John Sport only became more necessary since consumer trends on the ath-leisure front only continue to grow, with more and more brands entering the fray. St. John is in no way looking to compete in that segment, but the category’s growth speaks to a broader shift in consumer attitudes that could not be ignored.

“People are continuing to dress more casually,” Fetter added. “It’s an evolution of a relaxed way to be, whether you’re at work, at lunch or with a friend or you’re traveling. People are just not dressing up as frequently as they have in the past. Our feeling with regards to that is just because people want to be relaxed and comfortable doesn’t mean they want to be sloppy or unkempt. We believe there’s a client out there that wants to dress beautifully. She wants to be comfortable. She wants to look her best.”

It’s a recognition that not every day calls for eveningwear, shift dresses, or buttoned-up knitwear suiting. St. John Sport offers joggers, wide leg pants and sweaters weaving in cashmeres and silks. The collection, priced from $195 to more than $995, is designed out of the company’s Irvine office but Fetter said it will be “sourced where we think it can best be manufactured, which could be a combination of our own factories or offshore.”

Fetter described the offering as one that should resonate well with the existing customer base that has been asking the company for more casual looks. It could also open the brand up to new followers, something the company has  attempted several times in the past.

“We do believe the collection is modern. It’s something that a new customer that maybe hasn’t worn St. John before could try. It’s an easy entry into the brand, maybe a little more affordable entry into the brand,” Fetter said.

Asked if he sees the spandex trend showing any signs of fatigue, Fetter said: “I’d love to say I hope so. Clearly, there are brands that are continuing to enter into this and it certainly is an important part of women’s lifestyles. We don’t think that’s something we want to try to compete with. We think our woman isn’t going to be comfortable in a yoga pant. She wants something more refined and in keeping with her lifestyle.”

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