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Men'sWeek issue 03/13/2014

LOS ANGELES — The cold winter has had people dreaming of warm escapes, and swimwear specialist Parke & Ronen is ready to outfit them for their sun-seeking getaways.

This story first appeared in the March 13, 2014 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

The New York-based brand has seen sales on its Web site skyrocket 123 percent over last year and will launch an updated site on Saturday that enables international shipping to continue to satisfy demand for vacation wares. The same day, Parke & Ronen will reopen its 1,200-square-foot store at 8012 ½ Melrose here.

Parke & Ronen opened the Los Angeles store in 2008 and has shifted it from a year-round model to a seasonal one. The Melrose store will be operational through August and start up again around Thanksgiving until almost Christmas. When the store is closed, Parke & Ronen will turn its storefront into a billboard for the brand.

Ronen Jehezkel, who founded Parke & Ronen with Parke Lutter in 1997, said the Los Angeles store is critical for the brand “to understand the West Coast market. We have learned to make things that really suit the California weather and culture. That has helped us increase wholesale distribution on the West Coast. It is amazing how much data a store can generate to make our collection a better fit for a particular market.”

At the moment, Jehezkel said the brand’s customers are gravitating toward dressier swimsuits, including the Angeleno and Catalonia styles, over surf-inspired varieties. In Parke & Ronen ready-to-wear, lightweight cotton button-down shirts and the thigh-skimming Holler shorts have been top sellers. Retail prices at Parke & Ronen range mostly from $100 to $180.

“People don’t want anything that is high-maintenance. They don’t want anything too complicated. They want things that are simple and beautiful. Those are the things that sell the best,” said Jehezkel, adding, “We never designed swimsuits from a swim point of view. We have always designed from a fashion point of view. Every year, we bring in 250 new swimsuits in different lengths, different bodies and different materials.”

Parke & Ronen’s non-swimsuit merchandise has been growing rapidly as well. Two years ago, that category accounted for 15 percent of sales. Today, it has risen to 35 percent. Jehezkel tracks the growth to the brand’s repositioning of its fall collection as an après ski resource. “We move from the winter to the summer to the beach to the mountains,” he said.

Jehezkel doesn’t foresee opening more permanent Parke & Ronen stores, but does envision pop-ups in the summer in Provincetown, Mass., or Fire Island, N.Y., for example, and during Art Basel in Miami. Parke & Ronen has yet to hit $10 million in annual revenues, but Jehezkel said the brand has been registering double-digit sales jumps annually and expects a similar result this year. Its 80 wholesale doors, notably Nordstrom, Bloomingdale’s and Barneys New York, are responsible for the bulk of Parke & Ronen’s sales.

“The biggest goal for us for 2014 is to increase our international distribution,” said Jehezkel, noting the brand’s sales outside the U.S. are minimal. The biggest opportunities, he said, are in Europe, notably the U.K. and Scandinavia.