When Naked & Famous Jeans founder Brandon Svarc talks about 100 percent cotton denim floor tiles and a chain stitching machine that sits on a table made from 1,000-year-old wood, it is crystal clear that he has spent many hours envisioning what the brand’s first flagship store in New York City would be like.
Add to that a hidden door that opens with a tug of an antique Japanese doll, indigo-dyed 1950s comic book printed wallpaper, a main counter dyed with natural indigo and a 10-foot illuminated logo that sits in the store’s main window, and you have Naked & Famous’ new store located on Grand Street in New York City’s SoHo shopping nabe.
The Montreal-based brand opened the flagship in October, bringing its full collection of jeans, jackets and shirts to the U.S. in a setting that reinforces Svarc’s “geeky” fandom for all things denim.
“We love our retailers, but customers get the full Naked and Famous experience at the flagship. There’s no other store where you can see the entire collection and get the product knowledge we offer,” he said.
Sharing product knowledge is particularly important for Naked & Famous, which peppers its range of raw Japanese denim made in Canada with offbeat items like its 23 oz. King of Slub jeans or winter white Blizzard Denim made with an uneven “slubby” surface.
“As a brand, we have nerdy, very specific stuff and a crazy side,” Svarc said. “Now we have staff to explain the brand concept, our products and how we’re making selvedge Japanese denim in Canada.”
Consumers can shop from a “denim menu” located in the center of the store, while the store’s largest wall houses more than 100 denim styles that staff will pull from for them to try-on in dressing rooms decorated with boro and sashiko curtains.
Opening a physical store amid a retail crisis is a typical move for Naked and Famous, which has always gone against the grain. The brand launched in 2008 during the Great Recession when most businesses were working just to keep their heads above water. It was for these risk-taking steps Svarc was named one of Rivet’s 50 Influential.
“Everyone is going online, so we know that going physical is opposite, but we love to do that because we are very contrary,” Svarc said.
And there are obvious business benefits, he added, that make a retail space appealing, like direct-to-consumer margin. However, the strongest incentive he said, is how the physical space serves as a jumping off point to develop long-term relationships with consumers from around the world.
With the new store, Svarc expects to see a halo effect for the brand’s online segment, especially being in a city he describes as “the center of the universe, fashion and culture.”
“We already see tourists coming to SoHo to shop,” he said. “They learn about the brand in the store, they get juiced up about the brand and when they go home, they can shop online.”