LONDON – Penfield’s parkas and puffers are back, with performance muscle — and a British accent. The outerwear label and a go-to brand for young Americans in the Seventies and Eighties has a new British owner, Four Marketing, and has big plans to toughen up its down jackets, fleeces and outerwear with more performance-based, technical materials and take back some street cred via a recent collaboration with A-Life after having worked in the past with Barney’s New York and Stüssy.
Launched in Hudson, Mass. in 1975, the brand was revived in the Nineties, and its new owners want to open it up to a wider, younger audience and broaden the offer to include sportswear as well as outerwear. In the U.K. the brand will launch a capsule range, and revive the old bear logo on the unisex Bear Pack capsule range.
“Our heritage is everything,” said design director Simon Oates. “We started as an all-American New England outdoor brand and things were just growing and expanding and we’ve gone from strength to strength.” The brand has launched fashion collections alongside its performance garments, and also put a new focus on women’s wear, collaborating with designers and influencers to create a new audience for the collection.
“For the fall 2018 collection, we have an oversized cocoon coat that looks totally new and brings something different to Penfield women’s wear,” he said. “It’s about bringing exciting stuff to the collection, be that in shape, colorways or bringing patterns back into the mix.”
Oates said the brand is also adding technical performance wear to give the brand credibility and a new dimension “to what has been a quite classic American heritage type product. We certainly see this as the right moment to diversify our offer both via our archive and exploring a performance outdoor aesthetic at the very pinnacle of our offer.”
The company has worked with a range of photographers and stylists over the years, including the likes of Mattias Bjorklund and National Geographic photographer Pete Seaward. “Recently we’ve been working with more up-and-coming talents such as photographer Ronan McKenzie,” said Oates, adding that the brand hopes to appeal to a new audience, and project a younger and more street style aesthetic.
While they are not actively pursuing a younger audience, Oates noted that the label is making efforts for the product to be more relevant and appeal to a wider audience than their traditional core Penfield customer. Oates pointed out that at the end of the day they are historically viewed as an outdoors brand. “But of late we have developed our sportswear and performancewear in a much more overt way and will continue to do so in the coming seasons,” said Oates. “The sportswear element is directly influenced by and references our Penfield archive — and this is why we may be attracting a younger audience.”
Oates said the company is looking to grow the business “significantly” in the next three to four years — via its own stores, and through online and e-commerce. It also plans to expand into new territories and focus on growing the American market, which has always been key. The business is almost all wholesale, although the brand is now looking into premium distribution channels. The U.S. is a big market for Penfield’s women’s wear, which is sold at Madewell and department stores such as Nordstrom and Shopbop.
In Europe, the brand sells in markets such as Scandinavia, Germany and Italy. “This is much more trend-aware and digitally engaged consumer and that is obviously how we communicate with them. Speaking to market and other brands, we have to be continually engaging, and giving them lots of background and information on the product, stories and inspirations that link back to our heritage, and give a much more developed brand view, rather than just selling them a jacket.”