There are already Kith cereals, creamsicles and BMWs. Could a seaside resort be next? It’s entirely possible that this will be the next frontier for Ronnie Fieg, the founder of the fashionable retailer and brand.
âHospitality is a category that I haven’t fully explored,â he said in conversation with UTA Marketing during an Advertising Week NY presentation last week. He said that while he tended to “dive headfirst” into most projects, he chose to simply dip his toes in the hospitality business when he opened the first international location for the hotel. Sadelle’s restaurant in his recently opened Parisian store, where he serves the quintessential New York City. dishes such as bagels with smoked salmon and minced salmon.
Opening restaurants in stores isn’t new, of course, but for Kith, it represents the next chapter in what has already turned into a history-rich career for the 39-year-old Queens native.
This year marks the 10th anniversary of Kith, which started as a 580 square foot shoe annex inside the Atrium store in Brooklyn in 2011, where Fieg showcased sneakers from New Balance, Gourmet, Pro-Keds and Nike. alongside wing tips from Florsheim, Red Wing boots and casual shoes from Clarks.
Since then, the company has grown into a vibrant retailer and a coveted brand, with eight flagships and three shops-in-shops around the world and around 400 employees.
Its commercial footprint includes two Manhattan stores, on Lafayette Street and Bleecker Street, where young people camp for hours to catch the last drops, as well as locations on Flatbush Avenue in Brooklyn; West Hollywood; Miami Beach; Hawaii; Tokyo and Paris. There are also stores inside Bergdorf Goodman’s and Hirshleifers men’s store in New York, as well as in Selfridges in London.
It was Kith’s rapid growth and impact on the industry beyond his size that earned him and Fieg this year’s WWD honor for Top Performing Retailer – Small Cap.
Like many entrepreneurs, Fieg’s beginnings were small. He started at age 13 working in David Z’s warehouse, a Brooklyn shoe store, where he could be surrounded by the shoes he admired but couldn’t afford to buy.
âI fell in love with the product,â he told the Ad Week rally. It was there that he developed relationships with big brands like Asics and Adidas, and clients with bold names like Jay-Z – experiences and relationships he relied on to create Kith. .
Shortly after opening this tiny shoe store in Brooklyn, he also brought his newly created concept to the Atrium store in SoHo, where he quickly attracted like-minded shoppers. His first collaboration was with Asics for their Gel-Lyte V Salmon Toe and Leatherback sneakers, models that are reintroduced for the anniversary.
His entry into apparel came in 2012 when he introduced the Mercer Pant, a camouflage military pant that he modified with an elastic cuff at the hem. It was successful and led to expansions in varsity jackets, six panel hats and other pieces related to the tribe he had developed.
âKith has always been a lifestyle brand,â said Fieg. âEven when we first opened our doors, I never thought of us solely as a shoe retailer. We were looking to create a community and a place where people could connect while buying the best product on the market. Over the years, as we have developed our own brand, we have been able to extend this approach and apply our own vision in different categories.
As stylist Eugene Tong writes in Kith’s 10th anniversary book, âHe has a growing die-hard fan base and he treats them like family.
From the start, Fieg was determined to provide a welcoming and inclusive experience. He encouraged people to come in and out even if they hadn’t bought anything. And it attracted them not only with the merchandise mix, but also with innovative, out-of-the-box collaborations.
Over the years, the company has partnered with everyone from Levi’s, Adidas and Columbia to Nike, Versace, Coca-Cola and BMW. Many of these partnerships broke new ground – for example, the 2016 Nike collaboration featured an Air Force 1 model that hadn’t been offered for 15 years and was the first time it had been sold in the United States. The 2019 Versace partnership was the first the luxury house has allowed another brand to incorporate its Medusa head logo on the product, and the 2020 Calvin Klein co-branded collection was the first time that another name from. brand was featured next to hers on her elastic waistband.
These collaborations have gone viral thrills regardless of their price tag, which can range from a $ 1 can of Coca-Cola to a six-figure BMW car. Last fall, Fieg designed a special edition M4 vehicle for the automaker and the 150 cars, which sold for $ 120,000 and up, sold out in 27 minutes.
One of his most defining moments for the company came in 2016 when Bergdorf Goodman opened a Kith boutique on the third floor of his men’s store to house the new co-branded collection.
For Fieg, it was a particularly emotional moment. He says his mother was a huge Bergdorf fan and took him there as a child to browse, although they couldn’t afford to buy anything. âThis is one of the brand’s greatest accomplishments,â he said at the time.
Indeed. It was also the first time that the retailer dedicated a store to a brand it had never tested before and allowed the use of its logo on the exterior of clothing, in this case baseball caps, sunglasses. sweatshirts and other hooded sweatshirts.
âIt has a cohesive perspective and a sophisticated color palette that gives our logo relevance and respect,â said Bruce Pask, director of menswear for Bergdorf’s and its parent company, Neiman Marcus. “It is a partnership that we value supremely and it is a rarity in our business.”
Five years later, the boutique, located on the third floor across from Thom Browne, is still there and still draws crowds.
Pask said he recognized early on that what Fieg was doing was “compelling” and that, since the price was more accessible than most of the other products in the store, it could attract a new, younger customer to Bergdorf.
âYou have to buy it immediately,â Pask said. “When it drops, if you’re not online, it’ll be gone.” It takes action and this sense of immediacy in retail was revolutionary. And it also helped make the third floor of the men’s store a fun atmosphere in which to relax and be a part of the Kith world.
For David Fischer, CEO and publisher of Highsnobiety, the heart of Kith’s success is his storytelling expertise. âToday, customers don’t buy products, they buy stories,â he told the Advertising Week group.
For Fieg, many of these stories are personal.
âThe brands I choose to partner with are the ones that I have a genuine personal connection with,â he said. âThis is the most important element of our collaborations. It could be a product that I use in my daily life or a product that I have grown to love as I have matured and grown. A lot of the partners we work with are the ones I fell in love with between the ages of 13 and 19 because I think this is the most important and transformative time of our lives.
He was hesitant to categorize which partnerships have been the most successful, saying he doesn’t measure success by standard metrics. Instead, “it’s all about scaling our brand and expanding the lifestyle we can offer the customer,” he explained. âWe are working on these projects because we know they will achieve this goal. “
Looking ahead, Fieg would not have indicated what other collaborations he had underway, but did point to his recently published 10th anniversary book for advice.
âPeople who bought our 10 year old book will see what to expect,â he said. âThe majority of the book was devoted to presenting the collections that we will be releasing this year and early next year. We usually featured them in our parade, but for our 10th anniversary we created this book for people to explore and find out what we have planned for the months to come.
Flipping through the book, Kith teases upcoming collaborations with Monopoly, Capita, Oakley, Star Wars, Adidas Terrex, New Era, Clark’s, and Major League Baseball.
So what’s next for Kith over the next decade and beyond? Fieg is reluctant to make predictions.
âI have plans for the future. We’ve been working on collections for almost two years now, and there are other experiential ideas that I’m looking to accomplish, âhe said. âHowever, there is no scenario for our future. The most important thing for me is that we continue to grow in a thoughtful and thoughtful way to develop and build on what we have been doing in our first decade. We meet these challenges when I feel we are ready to execute them at the highest level possible. “