After almost three decades in business, Luca Benini, the founder of Slam Jam, which is based in Ferrara, Italy, decided it was time to enter the North American market.
“The key objective for Slam Jam is to go international with our distribution by 2020,” said Benini. “Approaching America is a crucial pillar of the strategy, with the very valuable support of market specialist Point.”
Benini partnered with Point Intl., which includes Jason Sherman, Jason Benta and Jordan Thomas, who have held stints within sales at brands including Diadora Heritage, Under Armour and Billionaire Boys Club. They built a relationship organically and got to know each other during Paris fashion week and Miami Art Basel.
Slam Jam is a retailer, distributor and operates production facilities. Long before the luxury and streetwear categories were bedfellows, Benini was connecting these worlds and rooting his brands in skate, art and music. Late last year, Slam Jam teamed with Carhartt WIP to open Spazio Maiocchi, an art space in Milan that hosts exhibitions and fashion events and Benini has helped revive and reposition heritage brands such as Kappa.
In 1989, Benini started distributing Stüssy in the European market and Carhartt WIP quickly followed. Slam Jam currently handles the Italian distribution for brands including Alpha Industries, Champion Reverse Weave and Garrett Leight, and the European distribution for brands such as Jason Markk and Suicoke.
In North America, Sherman, Benta and Thomas will be distributing Napa by Martine Rose, Kappa Kontroll, Roa Boots, United Standard and Utility Pro Work Wear. According to Sherman, they are hoping to offer something new with this venture. He believes the North American market is less focused on quality and more focused on quick trend hits.
“Our market is oversaturated with carbon copying of successful brands, which is frustrating to us,” said Sherman. “Most agencies’ plan of action is to launch a brand elevated, then after a season begin to open more retailers. In doing this, yes you drive your revenue up, but you also shorten the time span of the brand. We would rather work with elevated brands and elevated retail. We want to create a real partnership and build a brand with those you start with.”
Slam Jam gave the North American region a taste of its proposition with a SoHo pop-up held earlier this year during New York Fashion Week: Men’s. The pop-up carried pieces from Kappa Kontroll, United Standard, RetroSuperFuture, Denim Tears x Brendan Fowler and New York Sunshine. It also featured a selection of printed products curated by Printed Matter along with a foosball tournament and an exhibition by New York-based artist Kalen Hollomon. While Slam Jam is no stranger to retail — it operates a store in Milan and Ferrara, Italy, and runs an e-commerce site called Slam Jam Socialism — there are no immediate plans to open a permanent shop in New York. Instead, they will work on temporary activations and collaborations.
Thomas said they are also on the lookout for great American brands that have a distinct identity and narrative. He believes the luxury world’s fascination with these categories won’t wane anytime soon.
“Luxury has always had an interest outside of their own world. Now it is just a publicized trend to appeal to a younger audience and call it ‘streetwear,’” he said. “We should stop using the word streetwear. It puts things in a box and limits growth.”