Walker Slater launches new on-trend men's brand, boosts web ops and Europe distribution
Scotland-based heritage tweed brand Walker Slater is launching a new collection that bridges fashion and tradition. It is also targeting wider European distribution for the new collection as well as opening a new store for its core brand in its domestic market.
The new Messrs Walker Slater collection is a “a little less traditional, more fashion forward, specifically designed for the Scandinavian and Northern European look, so quite simple, with clean lines and a slim fit,” founder Paul Walker told Fashion Network. “It’s an updated and slicker version, at a slightly higher price level,” he said.
Walker, who when we spoke to him this week had just got back from CIFF in Copenhagen, said the new brand received a strong response on its unveiling at the show and the company is in talks with premium independent stores from France (Paris), Sweden, Iceland and Norway.
He now plans to open a dedicated Messrs store in Edinburgh, hopefully by August when the collection debuts in-store. “It needs a flagship standalone store to really work on the identity and to make sure that we’re ‘tuning it’ correctly,” he told us.
The company is also expanding its core Walker Slater offer this spring with a new store in Glasgow and a focusing on growing its online sales to 25% of total turnover from the current 12%.
Walker told us that the new Glasgow store is key as it is a large location (around 2,000 sq ft) that allows it to show its total offer, including men’s and womenswear, plus the new Messrs collection.
It will open on Brunswick Street at the end of April, round about the same time as the firm’s new warehouse starts operations with debut seeing the web team moving into the new site. The warehouse opening and web team move will also mean a greater concentration on the online channel.
“We opened the website about three years ago and we want to grow that,” Walker said. “We’re going to change the navigation to make it easier for people to buy and we’ll promote the website, which we've never done, through digital marketing. We’ll continue to invest in photography and putting more of what we do online.
“The new warehouse will house the web team so it won’t just be about the fulfilment but also the photography, and the uploading,” he explained, suggesting the company will adopt a model already used successfully and on a much larger scale by Amazon Fashion Europe’s giant Shoreditch warehouse-cum-studio in London.
As well as the new Glasgow store, the company already operates a flagship in Edinburgh plus a store that offer menswear and a little womenswear in London’s Covent Garden, and another on the Fulham Road in London.
The brand had been considering pop-up stores in North America too but he has decided not to go down this route. Instead Walker will focus on UK expansion, growing via stands at European events (he is mulling a static presentation at London Fashion Week Men’s, showing at Tranoi in Paris and a return to Pitti Uomo in Florence).
Longer term, Walker would like to open a store-cum-showroom in Milan to really push the European operation into a higher gear after the Messrs launch. The brand is currently available quite extensively in Switzerland and Austria with “a little bit of coverage in Germany”, as well as in Japan but clearly has ambitions to expand relatively fast.
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