Is corduroy set for a fashion revival? If ambitious newcomer The Cords & Co has anything to do with it, the answer is certainly yes. As it launches worldwide, Drapers meets the corduroy brand set to make a striking entrance onto the global fashion stage.
Pitching itself as the world’s first and only fashion brand to focus solely on corduroy, The Cords & Co is looking to reinvent the heritage fabric for the modern era, with a collection of menswear and womenswear designs. The brand caused a stir at London trade show Jacket Required last month, its stand crammed with curious visitors throughout the show, eager to get a first look at the mysterious newbie.
Founded in Stockholm in 2016, The Cords & Co launch has come out of nowhere. Today, 24 August, it makes a dramatic debut with the simultaneous launch of an ecommerce site in 20 markets. It will have flagship stores in New York, Paris, Los Angeles, Stockholm and London’s Soho, and premium wholesale stockists including Oi Polloi, the Liquor Store and Bergdorf Goodman in the US. Not only that, but the brand is launching with a limited edition collaboration with Eastpak and has an Alpha Industries partnership in the works.
Drapers spoke to the brand’s CEO, Omar Varts, to find out more about the brand gearing up to start a corduroy revolution.
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Tell us about The Cords & Co?
It was based on a relatively simple idea – a brand based on the fabric of corduroy. Philosophically we like the idea of referencing the texture of corduroy – the ups and downs, the highs and lows. We wanted to take cues from the fabric itself and build a brand around those ideals. We strive for authentic and meaningful engagement with people and cities. It’s a very versatile fabric with a little-known history – from almost biblical times to a royal cloth and then a workwear fabrication and mountaineering.
How did you start the business?
Mikael Söderlindh, who is the founder of The Cords & Co, previously created the brand Happy Socks, and we’d been friends for a number of years through the industry. I was working with an Australian lifestyle brand, Deus Ex Machina, which focused on motorcycles and then expanded into menswear, when I bumped into Söderlindh last November in South Africa. The idea [for The Cords & Co] resonated with me so much that I packed up my family in Bondi Beach, Australia, and moved to Stockholm.
Tell us about the collection
We started with what is familiar to people – the trousers. We’ve also explored tops based on classic, utilitarian shapes. From that foundation we’re building and challenging, taking jersey silhouettes – hoodies and T-shirts – and exploring the fabrication of corduroy within this. That is what we’ve found really refreshing – exploring a classic silhouette and changing the base fabric to corduroy. There are 70 pieces across men’s and women’s in different colours, and we’re building on that. Retail prices start at €50 (£45) for a corduroy cap, with trousers ranging from €130 (£118) to €180 (£163) and at the top end, ”aspirational” items cost €500 (£453) plus.
You say you want to be a corduroy brand in a denim world – what does that mean
The denim industry is quite saturated and repetitive, and it’s looking for a new point of view. We’re trying to take some of those ideas – in the approach to silhouettes, washes, treatments, application and the way we present the business model. We want to borrow those learnings and present them in a new, updated format. Denim brands have played in corduroy, but no one has ever owned corduroy. This is the first time that anyone has presented a brand solely dedicated to corduroy.
You’ve chosen an unusual way to launch. Why did you decide to do this and what advantage do you think it has?
I think it’s the ideal way of presenting a first impression of a brand with a global outlook. It’s an undiluted representation of what we’re creating. If we can present it in our own physical and digital environment I believe there’s something very powerful in that. The experience retail offers is very difficult to replicate online. The physicality of retail, the experiential idea of retail, the theatre of it – they cannot be recreated online. For a brand dedicated to a very textured fabric, it’s very important for us to have an element of touch and feel alongside anything digital to really ensure the message is as clear and precise as possible.
What are some of the challenges you’ve faced setting up the business in this way?
The complexity of setting up a global business from day one was very real. Many brands start with an idea that they seed or curate in a small environment – whereas the challenge for us has been pulling together a single, clear-minded idea in quite a complex, international way from the outset. We are having to set up subsidiaries and business environments that nurture long term growth all over the world all at once.
Have you had any financial backing?
We have had backing from some entrepreneurs, generally Swedish, who have come together on the project. They have all provided great input to get to this point. They are from a combination of various industries, which has really helped provide access to thinking not only from a traditional fashion approach but also from other industries. That’s really added to the dynamic set-up of the brand so far. It’s given us the initial momentum to give this idea the kind of traction it deserves.
You have collaborations with both Alpha Industries and Eastpak – what form will they take?
We’re collaborating with brands that stand for something authentic and real. The exciting thing for us is exploring a silhouette – for example Alpha Industries’ MA-1 bomber jacket or the backpack Eastpak has been producing for decades. Flipping that into a corduroy fabrication means that we can contribute meaningfully to a partnership. We have a limited release of the Eastpak backpack that will launch as we do, and the Alpha Industries collaboration is set for a few months down the line.
How do you plan to build the brand after launch?
Ensuring we continue to focus on where we started – on the fabric of corduroy. We’ll continue to progress that idea in less of a revolutionary way and more of an evolutionary way. We’ll continue to challenge perceptions of typical corduroy concepts, presenting something that can be a little controversial at times, but having the confidence to present. We want to highlight process and storytelling, whether that is through our flagship stores, online, on social or with retailers – continuing to reference back to where we started.