NEW YORK — There is a world beyond underwear — just ask Tom Speight.
This story first appeared in the April 23, 2015 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Since joining the brand just shy of two years ago, the president and chief executive officer of 2(x)ist has set his sights on creating a complete lifestyle brand.
The brand is part of Moret Group’s H Best division and started life in 1991 as a body-conscious underwear collection targeted to the active man. Since that time, the label has expanded into swimwear, activewear, hosiery and even watches, and it’s sold at department stores and shops on six continents.
But Speight, who had been president of Calvin Klein Underwear and Jeans at Warnaco before joining 2(x)ist in 2013, believes its reach can be even broader. “Over the next five years, I want to be a full global lifestyle brand,” he said in an interview at the brand’s Seventh Avenue offices.
“I spent the first eight months digging into the brand and the consumer to be sure we were positioned correctly,” Speight said. “Our consumer is the self-purchasing male, Millennial to Gen Y. Our sweet spot is 25 to 34. Everybody wants a share of his wallet.”
On Speight’s wish list is men’s accessories, which the brand teased at its annual fashion show in October. This included “great gym bags, totes and messengers,” he said, “that are functional with pops of color and prints.”
Other logical brand extensions include sunglasses and footwear — “everything that supports his lifestyle,” Speight said. “And we passionately believe there’s a women’s counterpart to this brand. But we believe in incubating businesses and creating scale.”
So before he jumps into the women’s arena, Speight is looking outside the U.S. for growth for 2(x)ist’s men’s wear. Right now, only 10 percent of 2(x)ist’s business comes from overseas.
The company operates licensed stores in Taiwan, Singapore and Kuala Lumpur; there are 14 concessions in Southeast Asia. This month, the company will launch in Mexico with Liverpool stores and the brand is also carried in Canada and Australia.
“We have an eye on Europe, too,” Speight said.
E-commerce is also seen as an opportunity. Right now, e-commerce sales are 12 percent of the total and they grew by 35 percent last year. The company operates the site itself and a new mobile platform was launched at the end of last year.
Operating its own retail stores is another goal, Speight said, noting that he’s hoping to find a site this year. “We’re aggressively looking for locations to bring the 2(x)ist brand to life at retail,” he said. Tops on the list are Boston, New York, Miami, Los Angeles and San Francisco, as well as Chicago.
When Macy’s renovated its underwear shop at the Herald Square flagship last year, 2(x)ist installed a 500-square-foot hard shop. This shop would be the prototype for the brand’s own retail stores, Speight said. “It tells the story in a vibrant way and brings the presentation to life in lifestyle montages” that the brand shows on a 79-inch video screen.
Although he declined to provide a volume figure, Speight said overall sales in 2014 rose more than 30 percent with underwear sales increasing in the solid double-digits. “The biggest news in underwear is performance,” he said. For spring, the label created a new product, Speed 2.0, made of nylon spandex with a mesh inset panel and double-printed waistband. The rise is low and the cut slim for the contemporary guy.
The brand also continues to mine its heritage in color, offering a rainbow of hues and prints.
Swimwear, which is in its fourth season, had a solid 2014 as well, Speight said. Sixty percent of the business is wovens with 40 percent knits. The mid-thigh volley model is 2(x)ist’s number-one silhouette.
Every year, 2(x)ist holds a fashion show to showcase its newest product offerings. In the October 2013 show, the company teased an ath-leisure collection that hit stores for fall. Speight said the results were “phenomenal,” with slim-leg joggers with chunky drawcords and big pockets among the bestsellers. “This is how our guy dresses today,” he said. “It’s what he lounges in and works out in and goes to the coffee shop in.”
Speight said the company is significantly expanding the number of pieces offered in the ath-leisure collection for fall. “Our stockkeeping unit count is up 50 percent for fall in active, performance and loungewear,” he said.
Social media is a priority and Speight said the company recently hired Samantha Eng to serve as director of social media. Her background includes brand marketing and public relations manager for Marchon Eyewear.
“We used to talk to the consumer,” she said, “but now we’re having a conversation.” Followers on Instagram have increased fivefold since last year, she said, and 2(x)ist is working with influencers such as fitness experts, chefs and models who “align with the 2(x)ist guy,” she said.
Although the brand has had success carving out a niche, it’s certainly not the only label seeking to align with this Millennial consumer. Calvin Klein, Hugo Boss, Diesel, Under Armour and others are all gunning for the same guy.
“Everybody is upping their game and we know the marketplace is crowded,” Speight said. “So everything we do has to have a reason.”