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MC General Chat - Page 198

post #2956 of 3007
Thread Starter 
Grand opening, grand closing.

Stopped by the Ghurka store in downtown San Francisco this weekend. Apparently they're closing up shop on Thursday.

Had a chance to handle some of the vintage Ghurka bags behind the counter. Amazing how much better the old leather is to the new line.
post #2957 of 3007
Not surprised to hear that the SF Ghurka store is closing. That is very expensive real estate and the store was nicely done, but it didn't interest me enough to return after my initial visits a couple of years ago.

I was impressed when John Reuter bought the company and salvaged it from the investment group that purchased it around 2004 and essentially destroyed it in their attempt to make it into a women's fashion handbag brand as well as moving all production to China. John brought back all manufacturing into a New England workshop and collaborated with the original owner and designer to bring back the brands DNA. It made a great story and seemed to be on the right track. I feel that the leather and quality of manufacturing is still quite good, but yes there is a difference compared to some of the vintage leather which I own.

As far as the Ghurka brand goes, personally, I think that there isn't enough innovation to attract a new, contemporary customer to the brand or to offer designs that meet their contemporary needs. Adding a new color now and then just isn't enough. Ghurka has dropped the ball on getting "the cool kids" to adopt the brand. When did you last see a person of influence carrying Ghurka bags on social media?
post #2958 of 3007
Thread Starter 
The vintage chestnut leather is nice, but the mainline leather (which I think is topgrain) felt underwhelming to me. Especially at those prices -- $1000+ for a bag.

Some of the new stuff also just looks too modern, like the company has somewhat lost its correspondent feel. Examples of the vintage line and new stuff:

Vintage:

http://www.ghurka.com/vintage/men

http://www.ghurka.com/vintage/archive

New:

http://www.ghurka.com/men/business

http://www.ghurka.com/men/new-arrivals

I would have bought the attache and the Expediter though if they were made from better leather.
post #2959 of 3007
Quote:
Originally Posted by dieworkwear View Post


I would have bought the attache and the Expediter though if they were made from better leather.


Now that you mention it, the newer, mainline leather does look good but a bit generic. It is missing something. Perhaps something in the weight and texture or the tanning process found in the older skins?

I took a look at the "new" collections. Their combination of newer fabrics with certain older characteristics come across like a so-so Jack Spade bag. Looks like they need an all new design team stat!
post #2960 of 3007
Quote:
Originally Posted by GusW View Post

Ghurka has dropped the ball on getting "the cool kids" to adopt the brand. When did you last see a person of influence carrying Ghurka bags on social media?
Gee, is this what it takes to build or grow a brand these days? Really depressing thought. I personally don't use social media so I guess I am not influenced by it. In the few times I have clicked on Instagram, I have not seen anything that convinces me that I am missing out.

As for Ghurka, I have looked at their weekenders and briefcases and concluded there are better options at those price points. The quality seemed fine; the styling kinda blah.
post #2961 of 3007
Quote:
Originally Posted by GusW View Post

Just finished this. AMETORA by David Marx. Great read on Japans post war fascination with US Ivy Style and how and why things evolved to include preppy and denim/workwear. Excellent background on the evolution of style and quality manufacturing as well as the importance of magazines in promoting certain looks and styles to each generation. Styleforum even gets mentioned in the last chapter or two.

I bought 2 cotton sweatshirts that look like that one in the picture from a JPress sale (along with some sweats). Both were made in Japan. I was pleasantly surprised.

post #2962 of 3007
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by GusW View Post

Now that you mention it, the newer, mainline leather does look good but a bit generic. It is missing something. Perhaps something in the weight and texture or the tanning process found in the older skins?

I took a look at the "new" collections. Their combination of newer fabrics with certain older characteristics come across like a so-so Jack Spade bag. Looks like they need an all new design team stat!

Yea, I don't know. I interviewed Frank Clegg once and he said it's harder and harder to find good, quality leather nowadays.

Jack Spade is a good description for some of those fabric bags.

Quote:
Originally Posted by bry2000 View Post

Gee, is this what it takes to build or grow a brand these days? Really depressing thought. I personally don't use social media so I guess I am not influenced by it. In the few times I have clicked on Instagram, I have not seen anything that convinces me that I am missing out.

As for Ghurka, I have looked at their weekenders and briefcases and concluded there are better options at those price points. The quality seemed fine; the styling kinda blah.

I have no idea how to grow a brand, but if they made those old Ghurka designs to original specs I would definitely buy something. Seems doable at their price point, but maybe there are a high marketing and real estate costs I'm not aware of.
Quote:
Originally Posted by ridethecliche View Post

I bought 2 cotton sweatshirts that look like that one in the picture from a JPress sale (along with some sweats). Both were made in Japan. I was pleasantly surprised.

The Japan side of their business seems like it would do a lot better in the US than the York Street and Blue Label stuff they've been pursuing. Or maybe it's just presentation? Either way, it seems like they could just import those styles and marketing images wholesale for their younger market.

http://www.jpress.jp/

The Blue Line/ York Street stuff has never really been presented very well.

http://www.jpressonline.com/j-press-blue-2/
post #2963 of 3007
Thread Starter 
Nick at Norman Hilton penned a really nice piece on the demise of Bill's Khakis. Kind of no-holds barred, completely honest account of what's it like to service traditional minded guys and work with brands that do multi-channel marketing. Really interesting (cc'ing @LA Guy here since he's kind of into this business of fashion stuff)
Quote:
As captain of another ship lost in these waters, I can easily relate. I've been there; done that. The truly distinctive, Ivy League of Norman Hilton clothing had made him successful, but such a distinctive look has a sell-by date, and his was about 1985. So even though our "Jivey Ivy" touches had infused new energy into the lineup, Trad was kaput. Done for, on Fifth Avenue, Boston or San Francisco anyway. On the other hand, the retailers who continued to carry Norman Hilton (the core customers who were keeping us in business,) were totally opposed to change. They were, by and large, southeastern and mid-west specialty shops, and they generally held to the theory “If It Ain't Broke,” etc. Crepe fabrics? More “shouldered” silhouettes? Deep-pleated pants? “That may work for Louis of Boston, sonny boy, but down here in Charleston...” Or Cincinnati... And without these guys we had no business. Rock: Traditional doesn't work. Hard place: Traditional is all we want...

Okay, so, back to the present. Bill's clever motto was “We Made Bill's Better By Not Changing a Thing.” Now some companies have managed to move forward and stand still at the same time. Hermes come to mind. Levi's. But in the world of fashion, it's rare. If your brand identity is based on something indefinite, less tangible than a silhouette or a specific look you can do it. Brioni endures because the brand is built on It's Expensive! Bill stuck his neck out from jump street with Khakis in the name and the dude had a hell of a business in cotton pants, but the need for growth being a progressive, chronic disease, he got into bathing suits, sport shirts, sport jackets, outerwear, you name it. And none of it was as well received as the khakis were. So there's that. Brand extension doesn’t always work.

Then he had his own rock/hard place dilemma. Over the years the average guy's notion of how pants fit changed, and while Bill's offered increasingly trimmer models, they weren’t really all that trim. They didn’t offer much in stretch fabrics, thus maintaining the easy, loose look of the khaki pant that his true fan base had come to expect. The pants were, in our store at least, the favored by the fashion-unconscious man, not someone we were really working to attract.

Another fatal factor was a symptom of the disease called The Need for Growth. I believe it’s called "multi-channel marketing." Early on, when the retail customer went to Bill's website he was guided to a retailer like us where he could try things on, get them altered, etc. Bill’s Khakis were the retailers' friend. But in time they became an online retailer; and now guys were coming into our store to try pants on so they could go home and order them online. Retailers love that. This insult later became injurious, as big, well-designed and attractive mail order catalogs were being mailed directly to our customers. Our waning enthusiasm for Bill's Khakis actually went into reverse. We became anti-Bill’s.

I guess it intersects with that Ghurka stuff we talked about earlier. My guess is that guys like @GusW probably have better advice for brands when it comes to maintaining a business. Brooks Brothers probably can only maintain all of its locations (which must be in the thousands) by being an Italian department store at this point. If they held to all those true-trad values and styles, they probably would have died long time ago.

Anyway, rest of the article here:

http://www.nickhilton.com/gatsbysghostblog/2016/4/27/made-in-usa-part-i-bills-and-the-downside-of-success
post #2964 of 3007
I didn't know Bill's Khakis until I saw them at Wingtip and thought I was in Gap Dad.
post #2965 of 3007
Thread Starter 
The M1 and M2 cuts were a little dowdy (especially the M1), but the M3 was pretty slim. I think they may have modified the M3 cut a few years ago to make it even slimmer (that's what one of the SAs at The Hound told me, anyway).
post #2966 of 3007

Really interesting piece.

 

Taking the Levis example they obviously haven't stayed the same. Even the 501 changed so much over the years. Maybe if you make the right gradual cut adjustments and don't tell your customers they won't notice :)

post #2967 of 3007
Thread Starter 
Hey look, @jefferyd in a RL promo! (1:40 mark, for those who want to skip)

post #2968 of 3007
Quote:
Originally Posted by shoreman1782 View Post
 

Really interesting piece.

 

Taking the Levis example they obviously haven't stayed the same. Even the 501 changed so much over the years. Maybe if you make the right gradual cut adjustments and don't tell your customers they won't notice :)

I think that this may be a big part of it.  Bill's khakis never adjusted the patterns, AFAIK, from year to year.  Pretty much every other designer does that.  A few curmdugeons will notice and complain, but most people will not, especially if the tweaks are gradual and lag trends.  

 

So, is the company back, then?

post #2969 of 3007
@dieworkwear's post by Nick Hilton about Bill's reflects how important it is to adopt change or risk being left behind. Lots of small specialty retailers across the country didn't want Bill's Khakis to change and look where it left them. I disagree with Nick that it was the introduction of many new accessories (brand extension) that lead to Bill's downfall. It was that anything they introduced continued to appeal to the same older demographic. That demographic "aged out" and eventually had less demand for their products. From a brand perspective you soon become obsolete. From a financial perspective you eventually run out of money. Bill's wasn't successful at innovation. The marketplace wants and needs "new". Successful brands continue to innovate and to appeal to new and usually younger audiences. If you don't, you wake up one day and find out that nobody wants or needs you anymore.

Nick makes a very important point about brands/manufacturers competing directly with their retail accounts by selling online or through catalogs. How do you do that without ruining your base of retailers? Not everyone has access to a local, quality specialty store. (Keep in mind there was nothing preventing any of the Bill's dealers from selling their products online and direct to consumers. Many did such as Ben Silver, Wingtip and others. ). If brands don't manage an effective presence online then they risk loosing their appeal and control of their brand image. But smart companies have found ways to manage a loyal dealer base and direct consumer contact. There are excellent examples of great brands offering specific, limited collections online direct to consumers and separate, broader collections exclusively to their specialty retailers. That way the retailer has something unique yet the brand is able to compete in the global online world of commerce.
post #2970 of 3007
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by GusW View Post

@dieworkwear's post by Nick Hilton about Bill's reflects how important it is to adopt change or risk being left behind. Lots of small specialty retailers across the country didn't want Bill's Khakis to change and look where it left them. I disagree with Nick that it was the introduction of many new accessories (brand extension) that lead to Bill's downfall. It was that anything they introduced continued to appeal to the same older demographic. That demographic "aged out" and eventually had less demand for their products. From a brand perspective you soon become obsolete. From a financial perspective you eventually run out of money. Bill's wasn't successful at innovation. The marketplace wants and needs "new". Successful brands continue to innovate and to appeal to new and usually younger audiences. If you don't, you wake up one day and find out that nobody wants or needs you anymore.

Nick makes a very important point about brands/manufacturers competing directly with their retail accounts by selling online or through catalogs. How do you do that without ruining your base of retailers? Not everyone has access to a local, quality specialty store. (Keep in mind there was nothing preventing any of the Bill's dealers from selling their products online and direct to consumers. Many did such as Ben Silver, Wingtip and others. ). If brands don't manage an effective presence online then they risk loosing their appeal and control of their brand image. But smart companies have found ways to manage a loyal dealer base and direct consumer contact. There are excellent examples of great brands offering specific, limited collections online direct to consumers and separate, broader collections exclusively to their specialty retailers. That way the retailer has something unique yet the brand is able to compete in the global online world of commerce.

Just to push the convo -- as I have no opinion either way -- but wouldn't appealing to the 35-50 demographic (or whatever Bills Khaki's demographic was) just mean that you get the new group of people getting into that age group, just as the old ones are leaving? Why are brands targeting older customers necessarily more at risk of losing their base than brands targeting young ones? I would assume brands that appeal to young people are more at risk since young people have fickle taste (see Abercrombie & Fitch and American Apparel).

Granted, brands that target older customers still have to innovate and move with market trends, but I'm not understanding why the solution is necessarily to target younger audiences (rather than just continue to serve an older crowd).

One of the things I didn't understand in Nick's article is his conclusion -- where he basically says "stick with what you do and know well, and if you eventually get phased out because of trends, so be it." He poses that against the alternative, which he sees as "brand extension and expansion," which leads to this crash and burn experience at Bills Khakis.

But ... aren't both stories bankruptcy for brands?

There seem to be plenty of brands that expand and extend, and successfully make the transition. The examples he cites -- Hermes and Levis -- started off with a single product, then grew way, way beyond those things. Stussy, similarly, at one point was just a t-shirt company. Ralph Lauren used to only sell ties.
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