LOS ANGELES — Wildfox just needs to grow up.
That’s the charge new creative director Andi Sharp has been tasked with telling consumers by chief executive officer, cofounder and majority owner Jimmy Sommers. The Los Angeles brand rose to success with its dreamy, retro-inspired branding over the years and expects to end the year up 25 percent in sales to $120 million following expansion into retail, the concession business and fragrance. But to continue the momentum it will need to broaden its product offering and customer profile.
“When I started here it was under the premise that I was going to grow the Wildfox customer up a little bit,” Sharp said.
It’s the age-old task any brand faces: the longer it’s in the market dealing with fickle, ever-changing tastes in fashion.
The company’s still designing for a casual, L.A. girl but she’s out of college in her late 20s now and still going out.
That’s the story line. So what does that look like?
“It does read a little more adult, the color palette,” Sharp said. “I would say it’s a bit more sophisticated — less pinks and lilacs and more neutrals….And then going into fall ’16, it gets even more attitude. The graphics are less, for lack of a better word, bubblegum and they become more subtle. For example, we’re doing more chest placements and they’re small, but there’ll be a punchy saying as opposed to a big pink heart.”
Don’t expect a design overhaul: spring is very Wildfox-esque, themed around fairy tales, drawing inspiration from unicorns, mermaids and witches, according to ready-to-wear designer Emily Cadenhead.
About half of the material for the line is made from recycled bottles and the rest makes use of rayons and natural fibers. The collection comes in at about 50 pieces, a mix of dresses, tops, bottoms and skirts.
“I think it’s really fun to see the next step in Wildfox as the brand expands and grows and it’s really amazing to be a part of it,” Cadenhead said.
She joined from Santa Monica, Calif.-based retailer Planet Blue where she was senior designer for the boutique chain’s Blue Life and Blu Moon labels. She had her own line before that called Daughters of the Revolution.
Sharp came to the company having built two lines herself. One was Rebel Yell, a former competitor to Wildfox that’s since been repositioned as a tween brand. There was also Seneca Rising, which inked a licensing deal with Anaheim, Calif.-based retailer Pacific Sunwear of California Inc.
Sharp slowly began leaving her mark on Wildfox for fall 2015 with oversize, slouchy sweaters. That aesthetic carried into resort and perhaps tells the story more fully with spring 2016 when Wildfox launches into rtw and then is fully realized in summer 2016 when Sharp took over full creative direction of the brand.
She officially joined as design director a year and a half ago, but a quiet shuffling of the design department occurred this summer that saw her to the creative director role when the company parted ways with cofounder and former creative director Kimberley Gordon.
The division of duties when Sharp initially joined, according to her account, was that she would handle product and design, while Gordon would handle the photo shoots. It didn’t appear to work out that way with Gordon still wearing many of the hats at the company and then “Jimmy just decided to really shake things up,” Sharp said.
Gordon, whose LinkedIn profile says she is currently consulting, could not be reached for comment.
What the customer knows of Wildfox will still be there but there will be greater diversity in collections and capsule collections, Sommers said in an e-mail addressing the changes.
“As the business grows, I’m more of a believer that things do need to start taking shape in terms of departments and that we don’t all need to have our hands in the same cookie jar so what I did was I decided my wheelhouse was more garments and merchandising,” Sharp said.
Cadenhead’s role at the company has also evolved since initially being tapped to join Wildfox as a dress designer. She now oversees rtw. The department’s third designer is Aurora Rivera, who has been with Wildfox since 2012, initially joining as assistant designer to head designer Leilani Shimoda, who left the company in early 2015. Rivera now heads up intimates and swim, adding a more modern touch, as Sharp described, in the way of triangle bras and other simple cuts. And next year, Emily Faulstich, another Wildfox cofounder is expected to make her return to Wildfox as creative consultant.
It’s a lot of change timed with the beat of a market that is itself shifting to what Sharp coined “beach to brunch” ensembles.
“You’re seeing girls, even much younger girls in high school, who are dressing up a bit more,” she said. “They’re putting on platforms and they’re wearing these lovely dresses that show leg and they’re flowy and romantic. It just felt like the market was trending toward a slightly more dressed up version of Wildfox, but it’s still casual, easy stuff. We’re not a brand who takes ourselves too seriously.”