Looks from the new Ecko Function line.f

Since its founding in 1993 by entrepreneur Marc Ecko, the Ecko Unltd. brand — and its rhinoceros logo — has been a staple within the young men’s market. Originally associated with hip-hop and skate culture, the label has transitioned into more mainstream channels and today is carried at moderate department stores such as J.C. Penney as well as in the off-price channel.

The majority stake in the brand, which at one time had sales of over $1 billion globally, was sold to Iconix Brand Group in 2009. Iconix acquired complete ownership in 2013.

And next week at the Project trade show in Las Vegas, Iconix will unveil the latest iteration of the brand, a new category called Ecko Function.

“We know Ecko can’t be a true athletic brand,” said Mary Gleason, who joined Iconix full time in January as executive vice president to oversee the company’s men’s brands. “But we think there’s an opportunity to do more functional merchandise.”

Ecko Function will offer T-shirts, shorts, track pants, hoodies and jackets with technical details such as wicking fabrics, welded zippers, embossed woven fabric overlays and reflective logos.

Gleason said the line will be targeted to sport specialty stores seeking an alternative to the higher-priced brands. The collection will retail for $24 for T-shirts to $59 for jackets and is targeted to the 15- to 35-year-old.

“We’re very reality based and know that our customer would buy Under Armour or Nike if they could afford it,” she said.

Ecko Function will be one of the many brands Iconix will showcase at its six booths at the Project show next week. Other labels that will be shown there include Starter and Pony.

Iconix itself is in the midst of a restructuring. John Haugh joined the company as chief executive officer last year and has been putting his stamp on the business.

Gleason said the company’s brands, which include Buffalo, Candie’s, Danskin, Joe Boxer, Ed Hardy, Mossimo Op, Rocawear and Zoo York, are now being put into three buckets. The first, or “the drivers,” are labels such as Pony and Mossimo that have large opportunities for expansion. The second bucket is the “maintainers” such as Joe Boxer, which is exclusive to Sears and Kmart. The goal here is to just keep the brands relevant within their current distribution structure. And the third and final bucket is the incubator brands, she said. “These are not driving revenue right now but with a lot of love, they can move to drivers.” This includes brands such as Ed Hardy.

In addition to transforming the brands within its portfolio, Iconix is also divesting itself of labels that no longer fit within its structure. It sold its majority stake in Nick Graham to Tharanco last week and has also sold Sharper Image and its Peanuts and Strawberry Shortcake labels.

For Ecko, Iconix recently brought its licensing under one roof with Thread Collective, which is producing Ecko Function in addition to the other products within the brand’s portfolio. The label is currently carried in more than 5,000 stores in 60 countries and Gleason said the plan is to “come back to the roots of the brand” with its focus on music, art and the rhino symbol. “We need to capitalize on that,” she said.

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