What’s a guy to do if he spills coffee on his dress shirt right before an important Zoom call? Van Heusen has an answer and it’s called Stain Shield.
The dress shirt brand has introduced a new technology that can be applied to fabrics that repel both water- and oil-based stains. Stain Shield, which is a finish that is proprietary to Van Heusen, works on everything from coffee and wine to ketchup. If a stain hits the shirt, the wearer simply rinses it with water and the stain disappears. Its tagline is: “Blocks Tough Stains Before They Start.”
“We’ve been working on this for a couple of years,” said David Sirkin, group president of heritage brands for PVH Corp., which owns the Van Heusen label, adding that it was “born out of consumer demand.”
The company’s research found that wrinkle-resistance is the number-one attribute sought by customers, with stain repellence coming in second. “They want and need better performance from their products,” he said. “And they don’t differentiate between oil- and water-based products.”
In fact, 70 percent of male consumers said they would buy apparel with stain-defense properties and 90 percent said they would pay more for it. However, Van Heusen is actually selling the Stain Shield product at the same price as its other offerings.
Sirkin acknowledged that shirts with stain-resistant properties have been available for years but most are not effective against oil-based stains. “Water-repellency has been in the market forever,” he said. “But the fact that it works on oil-based stains is a huge unlock for us. It shows we’re smarter than we were 15 or 20 years ago.”
Stain Shield also has applications beyond dress shirts, Sirkin said, adding that it can be applied to other woven products including sport shirts, pants, neckwear and other sportswear categories.
In addition, the feel of the product is superior to other stain-resistant options, he said. “The hand on these applied finishes was horrible,” he said, “but this actually enhances the hand.” It is also breathable and answers consumer demand for sustainability since the brand’s manufacturing process is Bluesign-certified and the finish is certified to be free of harmful toxins. On a practical basis, because the shirts don’t stain, they won’t need to be replaced as often, Sirkin said.
“The consumer is going back into the market and it’s clear that they don’t want to buy as much,” Sirkin said, adding that although the launch is centered around the Van Heusen brand, he expects it to roll out to other brands within PVH’s heritage portfolio as well as licensed product.
The Stain Shield product has quietly been offered for sale in the Van Heusen stores and e-commerce site for around two weeks and Sirkin said it has “twice the sell-through of the other product on the floor.”
The marketing campaign for the product is mainly digital, but there is “great collateral” in the stores that includes the ability to open a QR code and watch a video that shows how the product performs.
Sirkin said that like other fashion brands, Van Heusen has been impacted by the pandemic. And considering that it’s a label rooted in dress-up, it has required the brand to shift its focus to address the new, more-limited consumer demand.
“We’re all in agreement that the dress-up category has been challenged,” Sirkin said, adding that not only dress shirts, but tailored clothing, socks, neckwear and other more-dressy categories have all been impacted.
But Sirkin said that the brand instead doubled down on providing “solutions” to meet customer demand to look “crisp and clean” during videoconferencing calls from home or in their offices.
“The last seven months have been tough,” he said, “and the next few months will continue to be challenging.” Going into spring of 2021, Sirkin said there will continue to be “a lot of change, with retailers going out of business, going bankrupt and the door reductions. We’re all pivoting to a new way of working and there’s no way of knowing when we’ll get back to some level of normalcy. But people will have events again eventually, and they’ll want to go back to work and look good. And we’re making sure we’re in the best position to make that happen when we get there. There will be a lot fewer players, but that’s one of the benefits we have as a heritage business, and PVH has the fortitude to manage through this time.”
In the second quarter, the heritage division reported sales declined 51 percent year-over-year due in large part to a drop in orders from department stores, a key channel for the division. Overall, the corporation lost $51.7 million in the period, compared with profits of $193 million last year.