LONDON — The British streetwear label Bench is back in British hands, having been purchased by its Manchester-based licensee Apparel Brands Ltd.
Two years ago, Bench was purchased out of bankruptcy by the Boston-based Gordon Brothers, the advisory, restructuring and investment firm. Gordon Brothers had acquired Bench’s intellectual property assets from the German private equity firm Emeram Capital.
Gordon Brothers said Thursday it had sold Bench, which makes men’s, women’s and children’s streetwear, to Wraith, an affiliate of Apparel Brands Ltd. The deal puts Apparel Brands in charge of all Bench business outside of the Americas region. Freemark Apparel Brands in Canada owns the rights for the Americas region.
The terms of the deal were not disclosed.
Gordon Brothers said it had restructured the Bench business into a more “asset light — intellectual property-centric business model,” and secured several new partners in categories such as casualwear, handbags, gym equipment and workwear. It added that the brand’s positioning was “overhauled to highlight the gritty Manchester skate culture of the Nineties. As the business developed, it became apparent that Apparel Brands Limited was the natural owner of the brand, and ideally positioned to continue its growth.”
Gordon Brothers values, acquires, restructures and invests in underleveraged, distressed or dormant intellectual property to help revive brands. Gordon Brothers has relaunched brands including Polaroid, Wet Seal and Bombay & Co. The company said it conducts more than $70 billion worth of dispositions and appraisals annually through its 25 offices on five continents.
Peter Wood, owner of Apparel Brands Ltd., said that with “a vibrant portfolio of great partners throughout Europe, and excellent awareness and customer affinity, we believe the potential for Bench is sky high.”
Bench launched in Manchester, England, in 1989 and was one of the first streetwear fashion retailers, focusing initially on lifestyle products connected with the skate and BMX culture of the late Eighties and early Nineties.
As of 2017, there were more than 80 Bench-branded stores across 20 countries in Europe and North America, as well as more than 2,000 wholesale points of distribution. Seen as a mass market label with little to make it stand out from a quality or image point of view, it struggled to compete with the likes of Supreme, Palace and other street and sports brands, and with the big high-street names.
Apparel Brands Ltd. is based in Manchester — also the home of Bench — and has long-term European licensing deals with sports and casualwear brands such as Kangol, Slazenger and Farah, and has exclusive licenses with Von Dutch and Dunlop for the U.K.