Press

Forbes

April 2017

Wolf & Badger Sets Up Shop in SoHo

Multi-brand retailer Wolf & Badger has recently opened a storefront in New York’s fashionable SoHo district, allowing both residents and tourists to experience what Londoners have been buzzing about for years.

Founded by brothers Henry and George Graham in 2010, Wolf & Badger launched with its first store in Notting Hill, carrying a wide range of emerging designer labels for men and women, along with accessories and fine jewelry. Success came relatively quickly, and it opened a second shop in the equally posh Dover Street. The company also has an online platform that boasts a great deal of its profits (85% to be exact), which showed how it was ready to expand into the global arena.

Multi-brand retailer Wolf & Badger has recently opened a storefront in New York’s fashionable SoHo district, allowing both residents and tourists to experience what Londoners have been buzzing about for years.

Founded by brothers Henry and George Graham in 2010, Wolf & Badger launched with its first store in Notting Hill, carrying a wide range of emerging designer labels for men and women, along with accessories and fine jewelry. Success came relatively quickly, and it opened a second shop in the equally posh Dover Street. The company also has an online platform that boasts a great deal of its profits (85% to be exact), which showed how it was ready to expand into the global arena.

“It is a huge, English-speaking market that already represents around 25% of our online sales, without any paid marketing,” said Henry Graham of the U.S.

With this data at hand, Graham sought to gain more traction in the States, and set up a brick-and-mortar on Grand Street. Alongside Van’s and a stone’s throw away from Alexander Wang, Acne and Christian Dior, Wolf & Badger’s New York post is situated in an area that attracts a stylish, high-spending crowd. “It is one of the few neighborhoods that still has great independent galleries; we wanted to have the right adjacencies,” he explained. That said, having the right neighbors could also bring about stiff competition in an already struggling retail environment.

Indeed, more and more big-chain department stores and established brands have been closing locations, as consumers are going online to get their fill of fashion. This seismic shift in shopping habits has prompted many to restructure and invest in e-commerce, abjuring the standard that heavily relied on foot-traffic to turn a profit. But for Wolf & Badger, following traditions has never been part of its business model. Not only has its online platform always been front and center (which is perhaps why it is “growing 100% year-on-year,” according to Graham), it also doesn’t offer the same flashy merchandise, concentrating on burgeoning brands instead.

“We were bored with the homogenization of retail and seeing the same stores all around the world; the element of discovery had been lost,” Graham explained. “At the same time, we felt that it was becoming increasingly difficult for luxury and high-end independent brands to reach consumers via department stores or multi-brand retailers, as they were more focused on the big labels.”

For its SoHo location, Wolf & Badger launched with Tonn Surf, Bassigue, Wires Glasses, Caydence Arellano, Kosminka, Origami, Parlor, Hebe Studio, Florence Bridge, My Pair Of Jeans and a number of other fledgling names. They were chosen from over 200 applicants for their high quality, editorial appeal and, more importantly, for their capability to become the next generation of fashion stars. “We share both the risks and the upsides of retailing with our partner brands,” Graham said. “As a result, we are able to carry a truly different retail selection of labels.”

In return for paying for the cost of running the site, the store’s rent and the staff’s wages, Wolf & Badger charge’s a modest fee and takes 20% commission on the sale of each item sold. The collections will be housed in the store for three months and will remain in rotation on Wolfandbadger.com. “We call our business model serviced retail,” Graham denoted. “We provide a mix of concession and PR and digital marketing services to the brands that we carry.”

To be sure, selling items through consignment is not the most ideal situation for new labels. It is more advantageous for them when retailers buy stock wholesale, as it recoups production costs almost instantly. But because of the aforementioned struggles in the industry, this way of selling has been gaining steam. And though Wolf & Badger is only one of many riding the consignment train, it focuses more on featuring cutting-edge pieces from truly unknown designers. This has resulted in a cult following by some of the biggest names in the fashion and entertainment industries, including Rita Ora and Cara Delevingne.

“Celebrities flock to our stores because they love to set trends, and we carry so many press-worthy pieces that look great when photographed—many of which haven't been seen or worn by another celebrity beforehand,” Graham said.

Having items worn by influencers like Ora and Delevingne has become one of the biggest marketing tactics in the luxury sector. So, for Wolf & Badger to provide labels with such visibility is a major reason why it has become a beacon for young designers looking to find their way in fashion. It has certainly worked in London—a city that embraces innovative pieces from fresh talents. But will this work for the sportswear-minded consumer in the United States? Graham certainly thinks so.

“We are growing the U.S. business into the substantial enterprise we know it can become,” he said. “We see no reason the business can’t do $500 million sales within five years, as long as we remain focused.”

Wolf & Badger is located on 95 Grand Street.