Fabric that moisturizers the skin isn’t so Space-Age after all. Seattle-based apparel label Buki wants to offer wearers of its streamlined technical clothing label a collagen-embedded fabric.
The company, started in 2016 by Joey Rodolfo, spun a marine life source into a fiber with all the benefits of a typical moisturizer plus ultraviolet protection (UPF 50) for Buki’s Collagen Collection due out June 15.
The fabrication makes its debut as a women’s collection and includes a turtleneck, hoodie, V-neck, scoop neck, scarf and pillow cover. The collection retails from $148 to $198. The offering will be sold online at Buki’s web store in addition to its Seattle physical store. A second delivery, 90 days later, aims to expand the distribution via retail partners.
Rodolfo, a longtime student of fiber technology, is the former head of men’s design at Tommy Bahama and is the founder of Cutter & Buck, Bench Co. and JR 1879.
Buki is now in more than 50 doors. In November 2016, the company opened a pop-up in downtown Seattle and saw enough success that the store is permanent. The company’s store sits in an enviable position, across from Amazon’s headquarters and its workforce. Rodolfo reported the e-commerce behemoth’s employees often shop the store on a regular basis, providing a good feedback loop to refine the product.
“One of the things that we did is we’re really focused on having a retail outlet so we could go ahead and position the brand and get instant feedback,” Rodolfo said. “Being a new brand and being here in Seattle in the downtown core and having the Amazon population around us, we immediately started getting feedback on the brand, both on the men’s side and the women’s side. We decided midway through our tests [in the pop-up], this was going to be a success and we decided to take a space permanently and leave the store up as our design incubator. Its ‘test to market’ is what we call it. It’s been an incredible way to design product.”
Rodolfo thinks Buki can nab more share operating in what he called the white space of “desk to dinner” apparel.
“Our styling is very classic in nature with a lot of components that bring different types of fabric into the brand and every fabric that we do has to have some sort of benefit, either it’s easier care or thermo-regulating moisture wicking. It’s built for warmth or it’s built for hybrid technology,” he said.
Buki is set to double sales this year, driven by the increase in travel and a need to streamline the bulk of what usually gets packed into a suitcase.
“There’s easier ways to pack a suitcase where you don’t have to send everything to the cleaner,” Rodolfo said. “You don’t have to have fabrics you have to carefully fold in your suitcase. What we’re finding here is that this is an easy wardrobe that you can travel in.”
Buki’s also being buoyed by marketplace shifts in production that much of the industry has been noting for some time now.
“We see a marketplace out there that’s really moving in a different direction than how we were trained to go out and shop seasonally,” Rodolfo said. “I’ve been designing for 35 years and we had a cadence of delivery product for fall, holiday, spring and then summer. I’ve run big design teams and it takes an army to design this product, design all the color palettes, only to end up with a lot of inventory at the end of the season. We go at it with a whole different point of view. We say people need fewer pieces, not more pieces, in their wardrobe.”