After the recent announcement that industry veteran Mark Jensen has joined forces with designer Vivek Nagrani to head up a luxury wholesale division, MR spoke with each of them to learn more about their unlikely collaboration and how to solve some of the industry’s pressing problems.
“You can blame it on Mario Bisio who put us together,” jokes Jensen, whose background includes working with Mario in Seattle and Portland for 10 years, as well as his experience at Tommy Bahama, Robert Talbott and a stint as an independent rep. “He told us that since Vivek has built such a great brand, it’s crazy to limit it to 87H (Vivek’s retail ‘experience’ on Manhattan’s East Houston Street). Since I was looking to get back into the luxury market and Vivek wanted to focus on other things, it seemed a perfect match. I’ve always believed in Vivek’s design sensibility: he makes the finest socks and underwear in the world; he has a great eye and understands how guys want to dress.”
Jensen will concentrate on sales, promotion and distribution; while Nagrani will focus on design, sourcing and related projects (e.g. capsule collections, pop-up shops, elevated trunk shows). We asked Nagrani why he’d want to get back into the wholesale business when he was so happy to get out of it. His response: “For two years, Mario’s been telling me to bring someone in to make the brand accessible to more customers. As most people know, I have a rather strong personality and not everyone ‘gets’ me which can be a problem in sales. I was hesitant at first, because retailers were so locked into the big brands and didn’t seem open to anything new. But I’m sensing now that many are looking for alternatives, realizing that what they’ve been doing is no longer working and that they need to offer something special.”
The new wholesale collection will officially launch for fall ‘18, with some categories available for spring ‘18. “The reason men haven’t been shopping is because they already have too much stuff,” adds Nagrani. “What I hear most often from upscale guys is that they want to simplify their wardrobes. What I try to do is create harmony within a collection so that virtually every piece works with every other to streamline the process of getting dressed. Our target customer is a fit 40-55-year-old man, established or rising in his career, not the 20-year-old everyone else is going after.”
As Jensen sums it up: “In wholesale, we’re concentrating on the better independent stores since these are the merchants who can curate assortments, nurture relationships with their customers and set the trends. I totally believe in the survival of independent stores: all these bearded lumberjack millennial consumers will ultimately upgrade their taste level and create their own eclectic look. It’s no longer about hanging a bunch of sleeves; smart independent merchants are recognizing this, infusing their assortments with new brands, found objects, and a real sense of discovery.”
For more info reach out to Mark at Sales@vknagrani.com or 206-883-6993.