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Fly53

Having carved a niche as the doyen of underground cool, the streetwear brand’s popularity is soaring.

Launched 14 years ago, UK streetwear brand Fly53 is every inch the errant teenager. Its underground cool is steeped in its rock ’n’ roll roots. Created by Will Rigg when he started printing merchandise for his rock band, the brand grew when he repeated the trick for other bands. One thing led to another, and as his music career ebbed, the fashion flowed. He set up the company Sabotage, and from that launched Fly53.

At the end of 2008 the brand is poised to report its second successive year of 100% growth. How do you follow that? Managing director Rigg has a good idea. He has already signed up Pete Crispin, founder of streetwear brand Chunk, as the company’s first head of marketing, and has laid plans to heighten the brand’s visibility.

Rigg says: “We’ve built a brand based on product with little marketing spend. We’re widening our activities on all levels to increase awareness of Fly53. Our programme of storefits also starts in late 2008/early 2009, and this will see a much stronger presence within our key retailers.”

Billboards, campaigns and collaborations are all part of the plan. The brand’s first standalone store is also likely, but little has been confirmed at this stage and the manoeuvring is going on behind closed doors.

What is certain is that the brand chimes loudly with its core audience. Stockists include department stores Selfridges and House of Fraser, young fashion chain Bank, as well as a raft of loyal indies.

Graham Warr, owner of menswear independent Jingo, which has stores in Hereford and Worcester, has bought the brand since its inception. He says: “It’s been bubbling under for a long time, but now as soon as it comes in the store it sells.”

So why is it suddenly so commercial? Warr says: “The design is right. That’s always been true, but so is the quality and so are the prices. In today’s market that is an explosive mix.”

Warr’s target market is 16- to 24-year-old men, which dovetails nicely with Rigg’s vision of his brand’s customer. He says: “Our volume customer is kind of recession proof. They are in their mid-20s, have no mortgage and if they’ve already got their iPod, what else are they going to spend on?”

Most recently, Fly53 has been a flag-bearer for the lightweight blouson and a pioneer of 1980s nu-rave-style colour clashes, geometric prints and checked shirts; all perfect Skins-generation clobber.

However, Rigg adds: “That’s only part of the story. We’ve always had a cleaner look too. It’s a matter of turning up the volume on the right area of the collection at the right time.”

Womenswear is getting that treatment at the moment. “It is fairly new for us, but it’s doing really well in Europe and is growing by more than 100% season on season. We’re keeping it tight with independents in the UK. The international business is giving us the numbers to allow us to do this and grow the collection in the right way.”

Fly53 01905 745884 www.fly53.com

Essentials:
22: The brand’s total number of employees
15: Number of countries the brand is sold in
1,000: Number of stockists around the world
256: Number of UK stockists

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