Thursday, September 14, 2006

Vince the fashion label: lessons in building a brand

In another of those stories you see during Fashion Week in New York, the Times profiled a successful fashion label named Vince. Started in 2001, the label planned to grow to $12 million in annual sales; they are now four times that size.

This story comes on the heels of another Times story featuring prominently "Displaced Fashion Persons"--i.e., unemployed designers--Tom Ford, Olivier Theyskens, Jil Sander and others. (Update: Nina Ricci has just hired Mr. Theyskens.)

Why has Vince succeeded while others are struggling? The Times article has some clues:

  1. Understand and service the channel. Two of the founders had retailing experience, and the Times article opens with the label's president, Christopher LaPolice, visiting employees at Saks Fifth Avenue before the store opens. This kind of relationship gets his line better support, LaPolice feels.
  2. It's the products, stupid. The article states: "Instead of promoting a designer, the standard method of building a fashion brand over the last 30 years, Vince focused on the products."
  3. Find a niche. Vince's original clothes were "cashmere hoodies, pants made of luxury fabrics but cut in relaxed silhouettes, simple T-shirts that fit well — all items harder to find in department stores than you might guess."
And here are some of my thoughts:
  1. Pick a great name. (See a prior post on good naming techniques.) It's grounded in reality (the label's original designer was Cynthia Vincent), yet it's fresh and informal. It also has an air of the ironic--Vince, the prototypical guy name, is a ladies' clothing line.
  2. Make quality and accomplishment an objective, not growth, and growth will follow.
  3. Stick to what you know. The Vince founders had started and sold off a successful label, Laundry, in the 1990's.
(Picture: Actress Kaley Cuoco wearing a Crochet Shrug by Vince, via Couture Candy)

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