LONDON — Whistles, the British high street retailer, is expanding into men’s wear for fall 2014.
“This has always been at the back of our minds,” said chief executive officer Jane Shepherdson. “Whistles was originally called ‘Whistle & Flute,’ cockney rhyming slang for ‘suit’ and, after all the requests we’ve had from customers, press and our retail partners — as well as a lot of market research — we realized that now is the right time for us to break into that market.”
Shepherdson has appointed two designers to helm the new collection, which will be made up of roughly 120 pieces that will be revealed next year. “We’ve got lots of mood boards, pictures of the Whistle man customer. We’re making a good start [on profiling the Whistles man],” said Shepherdson. “He’s a guy that wants casual, understated design. He’s independent, confident, discerning; he wants accessible luxury; he wants nice fabrics, wants real attention to detail. He wants contemporary men’s wear but with a bit of a sports twist if you like.”
Price points will be in line with the women’s wear collection, with shirts starting from about 85 pounds, or about $137, and jeans going for about 100 pounds, or $161.
Shepherdson said the range would echo the principles of the brand’s women’s wear offering and be “understated, laid back and relevant to modern men. We’re looking at clean lines, but attention to detail on color, print and texture in contemporary shapes.” The collection will be “mainly casual” but will also feature suiting, accessories and footwear.
To begin with, the men’s wear will be sold alongside the women’s collections in Whistles’ existing retail stores although the brand is seeking a dedicated retail space. It will also be available on the brand’s Web site and sold at wholesale.
Launch plans are still being confirmed and Shepherdson said that she hasn’t ruled out the possibility of introducing the collection during London Collections: Men.
The brand said that sales in the 12 months to Jan. 31 grew by 24 percent to 49.3 million pounds, or $79.3 million, driven by 20 percent like-for-like growth.
Whistles has been focused on an international expansion strategy for a year. It is now carried at Printemps in Paris and in Germany at KaDeWe and Oberpollinger, among others. It will launch at De Bijenkorf in Amsterdam in November and, following strong sales growth at Tsvetnoy Central Market in Moscow, it will open additional concessions in Moscow and Kazan, Russia.
Shepherdson said that the Far East has become a very important market for the brand since it partnered with Lane Crawford, Hong Kong, in July. She said it’s the number-one premium brand on the retailer’s Web site. Whistles will be sold in Lane Crawford’s Shanghai, Beijing and Chengdu, China, locations in 2014.