It was just 10 years ago that Ron Rheingold, with a menswear resume that included 15 years at Kellwood and three years at Block, joined Weatherproof, then a well-known outerwear brand owned by the Peysers. One decade later, the Weatherproof Vintage division under Rheingold’s direction has become one of the most successful lifestyle brands in the industry, selling in top stores across the country.
“Weatherproof was well-known for its outerwear; my mission was to build a sportswear-based lifestyle brand. What I learned was that it’s sometimes easier to start a new brand than to reinvent an existing one… It was tough when we launched because back then, if you weren’t Ralph, Tommy or Nautica, no one was interested in a new lifestyle collection. Today, the customer and environment have evolved tremendously: there’s more appreciation for product; it’s less about yesterday’s brands.”
Positioned as an opening price for better sportswear departments (short sleeve wovens average $60 retail, quilted vests are $65, perfect hoodies in the softest cotton are $70, jeans are $79; cashmeres and leathers go up to $400), the collection actually looks more expensive than its ticket prices. Styling is fashion forward but not too trendy, fabrics are soft to the touch, colors and patterns are sophisticated, details (taping, trims, even hangtags) are upscale. “Instead of eliminating details to save money, we add details to add value. We’re not a public company so we don’t have to focus on top-line growth; instead, we focus on profit. Since we don’t have to sell everyone, we can be very selective when it comes to distribution. You date the prettiest girl and that’s all you need.” (Editor’s note: Macy’s, Lord & Taylor and Von Maur are among their department store accounts.)
Other Weatherproof Vintage success secrets: lots of international travel to track trends, a strong focus on marketing/social media and no company stores. “Our website legitimizes our prices and DNA but we’re not trying to compete with our wholesale accounts,” Rheingold maintains.
In addition to the sportswear (men’s and a fabulous new women’s collection), Weatherproof Vintage licenses 15 categories including home, shoes, socks, jeans/bottoms, cold weather, underwear and several kids’ categories. “Our challenge is to stay on top of customers’ changing tastes, to track the trends and make them relevant for our market,” says Rheingold. Toward this end, he credits an amazing team, including the Peysers (“good, smart people who allow me to be entrepreneurial”), Tony Galvao, (“my right hand: he joined the company shortly after I did and we’ve been on the same page ever since…”) and other talented team members who ensure the brand’s DNA is maintained. “I’m fortunate to have a dedicated team of merchandising, visual, design and production professionals,” concludes Rheingold. “I’ve learned that to get to the volume we’re doing, you need a fabulous team. The trick is finding the right people; no one can do it alone.”
For his own taste level and leadership skills, Rheingold credits his parents. “My mother is an artist, my dad a retired apparel executive. I was lucky to inherit a little talent from each of them.”