As we continue to celebrate ten years as a brand, We had a chance to step away from a very busy day, to get an in depth conversation from Co-Founder and Creative Director of Five Four Clothing, Andres Izquieta. Hit the Jump to get some insight to where the brand has been, to where it’s going, His most desirable item EVER (Which is sure to shock you) and even a proper perspective on the current state of fashion and retail.
FF: It’s been ten years since you’ve first became a brand. How have you managed to stay relevant for so long, when so many brands come and go?
ANDRES: The most important thing, we’re always looking to innovate. To be different as a brand. Just, some of the ideas that we’ve launched… you know, the business, in general is very hard and very challenging. I think with us, we’ve been able to establish what our core niche is, in denim and to really expand on that. That’s obviously exciting and that’s been able to pioneer our business. We launched the retail store in Westfield Culver City, three years ago, more so of a flagship store, where we’re sort of able to test out ideas. Our denim business is the best it’s ever been. We’ve been able to diversify our styling to a different set of customers, yet still keep that Five Four look and vibe. The next thing was, we launched footwear this past July. We’re doing an initial, small test in terms of just seeing what works in the market. We’re gonna have a much bigger release, Fall ‘12, leading up to a full launch of Five Four footwear, Spring ‘13. We have two classic silhouettes that we’ve been able to kind of, revamp and to make different yet unique, yet still classic in design and style. Next is probably the most exciting thing we’ve ever done is Five Four Club, an online subscription service that launched May 7th, 2012. Five Four Club, pretty much acts as a fashion stylist to men. We noticed a lot of men don’t like to shop, don’t care to shop or don’t have a lot of time to shop, so what we’re doing is taking that problem and we’re solving it. The entire process takes about sixty seconds. We ask them various questions about their personal style, take that inforation to get a clear view of what type of dresser they are and then we’re going to be able to curate the proper package for them, monthly on the 2nd week of every month. It’s a much better value that they would get from buying each piece individually.
FF: Do you think that other brands are gonna follow suit?
ANDRES: I think for some brands, it could work. Especially for men. I think you would have to be a brand or retailer that has a full range of product to be diverse enough to send an assortment of product to people every month. I think that customers are looking for more conveniecnce. It’s a slam for us because of the value in what we offer.
FF: You’ve come a long way from where you started in 2002. How have things changed.
ANDRES: When Dee & I started the brand, we definately didn’t know what we were doing. We didn’t know apparel at all, so theres obviously a huge learning curve based on what we’ve learned over time. Definately, In the beginning I think there was always an idea of being a lifestyle brand, a full collection, but we didnt really know how to get there. We just navigated into different categories based on what was easy at the time because we didnt have the experience or the knowhow to do anything else. Over the course of time, we were able to work with great people and mentors. We were able to learn the business and be able to expand. Learning the denim business well and, you know, build a core business in that category.
FF: What’s the biggest misconception about owning your own company?
ANDRES: That you’re rich.
FF: You’ve been partners with Dee Murthy since college (USC) How have the two of you managed to work together with the day-to-day operations for so long?
ANDRES: Well, Dee and I are kind of opposites so, we didn’t really want to do each other’s job, so I think that definately helped. That was obviously a big thing because when you have two partners who want to do the same thing, it becomes a little conflicting because each of you have an outlook on how things should be done. That was important to the success of our partnership.
FF: Who are some of your non-fashion influences
ANDRES: My Uncle. He always wore boat shoes and Ralph Lauren shirts, so I was always influenced by that look, that preppy kind of look. I think it’s the environment, when you boil down to it. The weather, where you are, the people around, the local culture. That definitely all affects what goes into the design of the apparel.
FF: Getting back to the footwear, where did the inspiration come from?
ANDRES: I had these two silhouettes in mind that I actually wore a lot and I wanted to reinvent them. I liked what was in the market but, I felt that there was something that could be a little bit different a little bit more modernized. So, I took two silhouettes, the slip-on and the boat shoe and pretty much reinvented them to what I thought would be cool and different from what exists now. That’s the way it started. If you look at our shoes, they have this double stripe on the tongue and the double stripe is derived from the back pocket of our 5 pocket jean. It was really important for us to tie in the jean, back into the shoe itself. I wanted to create something that could be dressed up or dressed down. Giving the consumer a style that was versatile and would always be a shoe you could count on as a staple in your collection.
FF: Are there any collaborations or projects in the past ten years that stands out as some of your favorites?
ANDRES: I thought the Reebok collaboration was cool because to me, the most desirable item in my life was the Reebok PUMP.
ANDRES: Yeah! When I was like 10 or 11, I remember I wanted to buy it because of Shaquile O’neal being the face of the Reebok PUMP. I remember my mom wouldn’t buy it for me and I begged her for like two months to get it for me for christmas and she told me, “No” and then on Christmas she surprised me with a pair. It was the white and grey with the orange. It was the most desired item I’ve ever wanted in my entire life.
ANDRES: Yeah, that moment sticks out the most out of any time ever. That ONE moment. For me, even to this DAY. I’m someone that’s very obsessive with clothing, shoes. I know, that’s like so left field… that was like, make or break, my LIFE!
FF: The Reebok PUMP!?!?
ANDRES: The Reebok PUMP!
FF: What is it that we have to look forward to from Five Four in the years to come?
ANDRES: A couple of things. One, is the expansion of Five Four Club. There’s much more I have planned as far as what the user experience is going to be. The offerings that the club is going to give to it’s members is going to be much better. We definately have some special things planned for them. Not only from a package perspective, but also from the ability to purchase MORE and to make it more of a REAL membership feel site, where customers can get exclusive savings. Exclusive product is going to be a huge component of it. Secondly, is with the jeans. We’re going to be expanding and trying to innovate in that space and lastly, with footwear, is to build really core, classic styles, that are reinventions of what we consider core classics today but still fall within the “Classic” category.
FF: Last thing, for people that are looking to get into this business, is there any advice you have to give them?
ANDRES: STAY AWAY! No, (laughs) the business is very different now from when we first came into it. With the explosion of the internet and blogging, there are a lot of companies making it look like it is very easy to do this business and, in fact, it actually is not. Its a very complicated business, especially because of cash-flow. Moreso today in this day and age, there are more dominating players now that exists that didnt exist in the past. For instance, your competition could be the “Fast fashion” stores who are doing a great job like, the H&M’s, the Forever 21’s and the Zara’s… Like, those guys are real players that are kind of the default stores now for a lot of people. If anything, for the majority of the people as opposed to maybe 10 - 15 years ago, your default store were a Macy’s or Bloomingdale’s. So those are humungous influences in business that have taken a lot business from people. Especially when the trend that’s being more promoted is more of a “Look” not necessarily a BRAND. Those people can offer that look at a way better price than a brand can through a third party retailer so, that’s the first thing. Secondly, there’s less retailers now that are around, PERIOD. In terms of people that you can sell product to, wholesale to retail. Especially in the specialty and boutique business. That business is gone. They’ve been really destroyed in the last five years. So with that said, there’s just less people to sell to, so the pie is a lot smaller. So what you need to do is, figure out what makes your brand and your product so special, that you’re able to distinguish yourself from everyone else.
FF: Thanks Andres
ANDRES: No, Thank YOU!
Thanks again to Andres for taking time to sit down with us. Check us out next week, as we talk to Co-Founder of Five Four Clothing, Dee Murthy, who will give us an insight to the financial side of the brand, the impact of sports in fashion and his quest for Ping-Pong supremacy! Till next time, Stay Fresh!