Premium denim doesn’t have to break the bank. Since 2007, BlankNYC has been designing collections that offer premium quality and styles at what the company calls “everyone” prices.
BlankNYC is the brainchild of 73-year-old apparel veteran Albert Shehebar, owner of multi-brand BBC Apparel. Shehebar has helmed women’s apparel brands for more than 40 years, including launching Jou Jou Designs in the ’70s and Dollhouse in the ’90s.
“Premium denim had become a powerhouse by 2007,” Shehebar said. “With our production and design capabilities, we knew we could create jeans of similar style, fit and quality at a more affordable price. Our assortment of denim, jackets and tops is unique in the market. And I think we do it better than any other brand right now.”
Part of BlankNYC’s strategy for growth is based on consumers’ willingness to try new things. The brand has built a strong reputation for balancing its denim collections with core staples and fashion pieces. Its design team pays close attention to the fabric’s hand feel, offering lightweight stretch denim with T-400 fibers for skinny jeans, as well as authentic 100 percent cotton denim in boyfriend silhouettes.
Its Fall ’18 collection introduces a new core denim assortment of soft lightweight stretch denims and mid-weights with added surface character to mimic rigid fabrics for jackets and boyfriend fits. Highlights include fun styles with eye-popping novelty, like jumbo silver studding and rainbow Lurex taping, plus PU-denim hybrid and sherpa and denim jackets.
BlankNYC has built a business with boutiques and department stores like Bloomingdale’s and Saks Fifth Avenue. Its range covers men’s and women’s jeans, outerwear and apparel and retails for $68–$398. The average pair of jeans is $98. The brand also has a girls’ collection offering takedowns from its women’s line.
Shehebar has had a pulse on women’s fashion since the early ’70s. At age 25, he opened a boutique on 34th Street in New York City—just opposite Macy’s—where he sold his own designs. By 1976, he had expanded the business to 17 stores around New York and officially launched his own clothing line, Jou Jou Designs.
“When we opened our first store on 34th Street, we really didn’t know anything about clothes. We were just young, ambitious and not afraid to take chances,” Shehebar said. “But my retail experience gave me insight to women’s tastes in clothing.”
Working off the success of Jou Jou, Shehebar launched women’s apparel brand Dollhouse in 1994, which garnered a cult following. He later changed the name of his company from Jou Jou Designs to BBC Apparel in 1999, as an umbrella for Dollhouse, Jou Jou and now BlankNYC.
Those experiences added to Shehebar’s knowledge of denim fabric construction and wash finishes. At one point BBC had its own laundry with an industrial washing machine in its design room, where Shehebar and his team experimented with sanding, acid washes and different types of bleaching techniques.
Now, as the company looks toward the future, it’s all about expansion—particularly in men’s.
“Men are becoming more adventurous with the clothes they buy. We are going to push the limits with our trend items,” Shehebar said. “We are also pushing to grow our distribution with online retailers, which is the fastest growing sector of retail right now.”
As part of the plan for growing the men’s line, Shehebar has promoted the company’s current senior technical designer, Kevin Lai, to head the design team as senior menswear designer. “Kevin has been with BBC for 13 years as a vital part of our team. He has an excellent understanding of fit, which is crucial for men’s jeans,” Shehebar said. “He has the creative insight to what our target consumer is looking for and brings a fresh eye to the line.”
Lili Chu, BlankNYC creative director, shares Shehebar’s enthusiasm about Lai’s ability to move the company’s men’s line in the right direction.
“Menswear is such a specific business. People say design is all in the details, that holds especially true for men’s clothing because men will always be interested in quality clothing with clever and thoughtful details,” Chu said. “Kevin’s technical strengths will be a huge asset to our men’s designs.”
The first collection under Lai’s direction will launch Spring/Summer 2019. Lai has chosen to keep designs contemporary and complementary to BlankNYC’s womenswear line.
“It’s important that the men’s collection be cohesive with women’s,” Lai said. “I’m going to keep things modern, updated washes, contrast color linings, interesting trims and construction details. It has to be on trend, but still maintain an affordable price point.”