Lifestyle gaming organization XSet is ramping up its fashion division.
The Boston-based company has named Steve Birkhold the new chief merchandising and licensing officer, where he will support XSet’s merchandise, fashion and design teams. In this role, he succeeds XSet co-founder Wil Eddins, who has been named chief creative officer and will oversee the company’s creative strategy.
Birkhold has more than 30 years of global fashion experience and served at a number of brands such as Diesel, Lacoste and Bebe where he was ceo, and at VF Corp., where he was involved with Lee Jeans, Nautica Jeans and Earl Jeans. The executive said he and XSet co-founder Greg Selkoe knew each other for some time and saw an opportunity in XSet. “I really came quickly to the conclusion that this company will be successful and they’re playing in a space that has a strong connection to their core,” he said.
Birkhold told WWD that he will help establish a multichannel strategy for XSet’s basics and seasonal product. “The team has done an incredible job with design and getting to market,” he said. “We have to scale up and put apparel company disciplines [in place].”
He added about bringing his expertise to the company: “I know that from my historical background, it’s a new horizon. There are companies we want to collaborate with, and retailers. This will be a segment of the industry that is coming up very quickly. Wil and Greg articulated the focused drops and things we’re doing around pop-ups. My role is to weave together an all-encompassing merchandising offering.”
Eddins added that the company hopes to enter big-box retailers, as well as streetwear boutiques. The trio also see an opportunity in the women’s segment, saying that “over 40 percent of casual gamers are women,” Birkhold said, but the products aren’t tailored for them. “The engagement that this consumer has with brands and the gaming category is huge,” he added.
Selkoe did not divulge financial data, but said merchandise is a significant part of the company, in addition to gaming and content. The organization recently launched a gaming and events residency at Drai’s Nightclub in Las Vegas, and won the 2021 Tempest Award for Best Licensing and Merchandise Activation for their collaboration with Latin artist Ozuna, beating out FaZe Clan and Takashi Murakami’s tie-up and Gucci’s collaboration with 100 Thieves. Ozuna wore the collaboration at the Latin Grammys as well.
In addition, they hosted a pop-up event at Rolling Loud this year.
XSet also offers lifestyle products such as cereal bowls, headphones, backpacks and footwear, and Eddins revealed they are actively pursuing a footwear partnership.
Bringing the brand outside the U.S. is also a possibility for the future. “Just in the short time networking,” Birkhold said, “the interest I got on the international front is pretty substantial. This is a global initiative and we have to walk before we run and do everything with the idea of a broad audience in the U.S. and outside of the country.”