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Dec 13, 2023
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Vince bets on international expansion

Dec 13, 2023

Founded in 2002 with the opening of its first design atelier in Los Angeles, the Vince brand has been advocating quiet sophistication and long-lasting quality for over 20 years. Inspired by California and embodying a relaxed lifestyle, Vince has created collections for both men and women.

Offered in 66 boutiques in the United States, and also in London since 2019, the Vince brand announced in early December sales of $84.1 million for the third quarter of 2023. Beyond the American market, the brand is now looking to go international with the opening of two stores in Paris at Printemps and Galeries Lafayette. A strategy explained to FashionNetwork.com by CEO Jack Schwefel.

Jack Schwefel, CEO of Vince

FashionNetwork.com: The Vince brand has recently begun to make inroads on the international scene, and particularly in the British and French market. What's your vision?

Jack Schwefel: Before I took over as CEO of Vince in March 2021, I had the chance to develop other competing brands, notably with Equipment within the Dutch Fashion, LLC group, and also with Gap, for whom we opened a number of stores in Japan. So the transition from national brands to global brands is something I'm familiar with. I obviously knew the Vince brand, as a consumer and fan. I loved the aesthetics and quality of their products, but I could see that the brand was still underdeveloped. It had a strong presence in New York and Los Angeles, but seemed quiet elsewhere. When the opportunity to manage the brand came, I realized that there was room for more development. The aim is not to copy Ralph Lauren or the Gap, but to gradually make our mark internationally.
FNW: Which markets are you targeting?

JS: France, UK and Germany are our top three target markets in Europe. That's where we want to be visible and audible. While we've been present in London since 2019, where we opened just before the pandemic, our desire is first to be present via department stores in France, and then to open our first boutique in Paris. Department stores provide unique visibility for a brand like ours. Printemps and Galeries Lafayette, where we already have a presence, as well as La Samaritaine and the LVMH group's 24S site are our targets. We are also present in some fifteen multi-brand stores such as Mercer by Edith and Soon and Mc Market, and aim to double their number over the next two years.
FNW: Since 2007, Vince has been offering men's collections alongside women's. Which segments are you aiming to expand?
JS: We have a lot of room to grow in the men's segment. For the moment, men's collections only represent 10% of our sales in the United States, and around 20% of international sales. Also men's sales in our physical stores represent 30% of retail sales. We will therefore be investing in men's collections and men's retail in the coming months, following the example of the Vince Long Island store dedicated exclusively to men's collections, which opened last September.

Vince Fall Winter 2023/2024 campaign

FNW: What are your ambitions for the global market, and Asia in particular?
JS: After opening our first store in Shanghai last September, we have just opened our second store in China, in Nanjing, in one of the country's most popular malls. This development has been carried out in partnership with ImagineX, a specialist in the distribution of international fashion and beauty brands throughout China. We will also be developing our wholesale business in China, and will shortly be announcing the creation of a joint venture. Finally, we will be stepping up our development in Japan and South Korea in 2024 and 2025, two countries where we are already present and where we have a real card to play.
FNW: You now have 66 stores in the United States. What remains to be done?
JS: Our goal is clear: to cover the whole of the US with 90 to 100 stores. In California, in addition to our 4 boutiques in Los Angeles, we're planning a new opening in Culver City or in the Century City area. We're also looking at the San Fernando Valley, where the population profile has been changing in recent years. We're also looking to expand in the San Francisco Bay Area, particularly in Marin County. We're also opening up new markets, such as Denver, where the opening of our first boutique in 2022 has boosted our e-commerce sales, and we're looking at North Carolina with Charlotte, Tennessee with Nashville and Washington State with Portland. We point out the states and cities where we are absent and react opportunistically.
FNW: How do you intend to develop the customer experience in your stores?
JS: We're experimenting with a number of things. Our boutique in Palisades Village in Los Angeles has already offered crystal reading and yoga sessions. Caroline Belhumeur, creative director of the Vince brand, and in charge of styling the women's collections, recently made appearances in our Chicago boutiques and gave styling advice to our best customers in the stores. The experience was a great success, and we've continued it in New York and Atlanta. We plan to do the same for men. It brings life and experience to the stores.

Vince store at Palm Desert, California

FNW: What is the creative direction and vision behind collections?
JS: Caroline Belhumeur heads the women's collections and Kris Haigh recently became our VP for men's design. Our vision is clear: to offer a simple, effortless, seasonless, classic design that doesn't follow trends, and whose products are based on luxurious yet casual fabrics, like the cashmere made by the same factories as Brunello Cucinelli.
FNW: How are you positioned in terms of sustainability?
JS: Our rental service Unfold is a good example of our approach to sustainability. Our packaging is also all recycled, we use craft paper to wrap our products, our labels are also recycled and we give priority to natural fibers like cashmere. So far we've been rather quiet on the topic of sustainability, but 2024 will mark a real turning point for Vince. We hope to obtain the B-Corp label soon.

FNW: Where do you manufacture your products today?
JS: In China for cashmere and silk, but also in Vietnam, Turkey, Portugal and Peru. Our T-shirt range is made directly in Los Angeles. And we will soon be developing denim, especially for men.

Vince Fall Winter 2023/2024 collection

FNW: Last May, Authentic Brands Group (ABG) purchased a 75% interest in Vince. What are your future plans together?
JS : Our partnership with ABG is quite clear: we manage the design and creativity of the existing clothing collections into our DTC and existing wholesale channels. ABG sets the wheels in motion to develop new markets and expand the scope of the brand. We want to further develop our relationship with them, in particular, by developing our licensed products. Thanks to ABG, we recently agreed to launch a line of suits in collaboration with Peerless Clothing, which we will sell in select markets (Chicago, Boston, New York) and on line.

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