Designer Q&A | Steven Alan, Rachel Comey and United Bamboo

This past Friday, Jeff Carvalho from Selectism and I went to a open table (sans table) with designers Rachel Comey, Steven Alan and Thuy Pham of United Bamboo. The question & answer session was moderated by GQ’s omnipresent style editor Mr. Adam Rapoport at the fashion week venue Mini Space.

To be honest, I was never totally clear as to the theme of the discussion. The crowd seemed to be a mix of jouralists and students, all seated attentively on the sprawling white sofas that were brought down from the roof deck due to the rain. The discussion was centered on the three brands, how they got their start, what influences their direction and how they market their products.

The topic that really caught attention was the Japanese market and its relationship with American labels. Rachel Comey stated that “Initially 80% of my business was with Japanese retailers.” Now however, the ratio has shifted and the market only accounts for 20% of the brand’s sales. This says to me that stores in Japan are more willing to take a chance on a newer line, while U.S. merchants want to take a wait and see approach. Makes sense when you consider the volume of deliveries in Japan (many retailers have new product nearly every week in Japan, where in the U.S. there are significantly less new product offerings), the eagerness to bring in new designers and the huge amounts of disposable income that many Japanese consumers possess. This massive availability of spending money is due in part to the large swath of younger, working Japanese people that continue to live with their parents. I took the opportunity to ask Steven Alan if the Japanese market had influenced his decision to produce many of his products domestically (because Japanese people like things made in the U.S. almost more than Americans do). Steven’s answer was yes, however the other factor was the ease of making products locally as opposed to overseas. When Steven started his clothing line (he was simply a retailer prior to launching his label) he “knew very little about manufacturing,” so using U.S. factories was a logical place to start. Additionally, it gives greater control and flexibility over production. If only more American brands would catch on. Not only would it be good for U.S. economy, it would be good for workers and the environment.

Comments on “Designer Q&A | Steven Alan, Rachel Comey and United Bamboo

    tristan on September 14, 2008 12:53 AM:

    fantastic post.

    jk on September 14, 2008 4:59 PM:

    this is a very good post.

    Mr. Hare on September 15, 2008 6:26 AM:

    Just discovered you site and have to say it is a great read with loads of interesting distractions. Thanks for making the effort.

    Victor on September 15, 2008 5:23 PM:

    I felt the same way – it was supposed to be about ‘the future of fashion’ but was just more about how they got their brands going. Interesting nonetheless.

    Matthew on September 16, 2008 3:53 AM:

    Glad someone is reminding Mr. Alan of the benefits of manufacturing in America. Last month I came across one of his shirts at the Annex that said it was made is Mauritius. I asked the sales associate when they stopped making shirts in America and he said they didn’t. I showed him the tag and he was as perplexed as I was.

    Matthew on September 16, 2008 3:56 AM:

    Oh, and Michael, P.S. —

    thirty five to three.

    my voice is still hoarse from the game.

    next year it’s in Columbus, though…..

    Michael Williams on September 16, 2008 10:16 AM:

    Steven mentioned in the discussion that a small portion of shirts had to be made off shore this season to meet crazy deadlines. He specifically said 98% of the shirts are made in the U.S.

    And yes, yes, yes. USC beat the Buckeyes. Though, you know Terrelle Pryor is only a freshman? That kid is going to be good!

Comments are closed.