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Celebrity customers such as Kate Moss have helped luxury casualwear brand Vince to quickly establish itself among high-end retailers.

Since its inception in 2002, luxury US casualwear brand Vince has quietly been building a reputation for itself among discerning buyers. Its first collection comprised a range of cashmere hoodies that were quickly snapped up by the likes of Kate Moss, Renée Zellweger and Catherine Zeta-Jones, while Madonna wore a Vince leather jacket on the cover of her 2003 album American Life.

High-end retailers across the world picked up on the brand, which is now sold in the top two or three stores in its most important markets such as Barneys, Saks and Fred Segal in the US, Biffi, Banner and Luisa in Italy, Tsum and Podium in Russia and Apropos and Theresa in Germany.

The UK in particular has warmed to Vince, which has grown to 250 SKUs for womenswear, including jersey separates, woven dresses, trousers, skirts, cashmere knits, leather jackets and coats. It currently counts 10 UK wholesale doors including department stores Harvey Nichols and Selfridges, London-based independent boutiques Matches, Browns and Trilogy, and etailer

That womenswear wholesale base is set to double at least for spring 08 following the appointment of a new vice president for international sales, Simon Whitehouse, who joined from DKNY at the start of the year. From a new showroom in Milan, Whitehouse plans to open 10 to 15 new UK doors for spring. Menswear, which will only be sold via the New York office, will be “light” launched in Europe for spring 09 resulting in two or three new doors for the UK market. The men’s collection comprises 150 SKUs, including cashmere knits, leather jackets, coats, jersey separates and trousers.

Growth, however, will be controlled as Whitehouse will be sticking to the brand’s ethos of “do not compromise on the product and do not compromise on the distribution”. It was this principle that persuaded him to make the move from DKNY, he says. “It’s quite a unique brand. We do no fashion shows, we do no marketing, there’s no egotistical designer – it really is the anti-brand,” Whitehouse adds.

Vince sits easily in diverse retail environments because it isn’t positioned for a particular market sector, believes Whitehouse. At Selfridges Oxford Street, for instance, Vince is positioned among the premium denim brands, but could just as comfortably be merchandised with luxury brands. “It can sit alongside high-end denim and the likes of [US jersey specialist] James Perse, or Marc by Marc Jacobs or even Prada,” Whitehouse says.

The transitional nature of the collection also appeals, says Whitehouse, as some pieces can be carried across from season to season. “It’s great, especially in this day and age when we do not know what the weather is going to be like. It’s a stealth brand really,” concludes Whitehouse. “It really operates under the radar.” Perhaps not for much longer.

Vince 020 7622 4866

2002: The year Vince was founded
250: The approximate number of SKUs in the womenswear collection
£80: Average wholesale price for a cashmere piece
10: Current number of doors in the UK

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