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Short-order brand Vacant caught Drapers’ eye at Pure London with its on-trend knitwear offer at low prices.

Chunky Fair Isle knits are proving to be one of autumn’s most important trend stories, and short-order brand Vacant serves up some key in-season pieces for independent retailers looking to exploit its popularity.

The autumn 10 offer comprises jersey and knitted mini dresses for women and, for men, iconic rock ‘n’ roll-print T-shirts featuring Sex Pistols bassist Sid Vicious and girlfriend Nancy Spungen, and rock legend Blondie, along with chunky knits and checked shirts. Standout pieces include an intarsia poppy-knit jumper for women and a black and white Fair Isle jumper for men.

Wholesale prices range from £8 to £30, with a mark up of 2.5. With autumn 10 sales up 70% on spring 10 and the same level of growth predicted for spring 11, Vacant co-owner Simon Lomond says price isn’t the only reason for the brand’s rapid trajectory. “The punk ethos is what we are interested in,” he says. “We look at [previous] cultures and vintage clothing and give it a contemporary edge. Fair Isle has been fantastic across menswear and womenswear and the trend has been overlooked [by other brands], which has worked to our benefit.”

For spring 11, Vacant will offer more forward-order pieces, but Lomond insists short-order will still be the focus: “The way things are economically, people don’t want to commit [that far ahead] and I don’t want to lose that.”

Maureen O’Brien, buying director at contemporary mini-chain Joy, which has stocked Vacant for three years, says: “We’ve been able to repeat quickly and lots of brands are keeping production tight. Vacant has UK suppliers and not enough brands are doing this.”

Retail appeal

The brand has been picked up by Urban Outfitters and Topshop for autumn 10. For spring 11 expect to see vintage check shirts, a chambray denim western shirt and fine-gauge cable knits for men along with a poppy-print vintage smock dress, a broderie anglaise tea dress and embellished studded knitwear for women.

The brand’s traditional 70/30 split of menswear to womenswear now steers more towards 55/45. Lomond credits new head of design Emma Davidson, who came from young fashion brand Ben Sherman in January, with the womenswear growth.

Vacant has also had success with its first retail venture in Brighton, which began last year as a pop-up store and is now a permanent standalone, stocking Religion, Ruby Rocks and Cloak & Dagger alongside Vacant. For wholesale, Lomond cites streetwear brand Fly53 and young fashion brand Religion as competitors.

The brand has 40 UK stockists and an eight to 10-week delivery time. Spring 11 sales begin in January 2011 and Vacant will be attending trade shows Pure Spirit and Londonedge. It may also exhibit at Bread & Butter.

Vacant 01273 414334


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