Woolrich International, the Italian-American company behind the historical sportswear Woolrich brand, and Goldwin Inc., a Japanese technical leader in outdoor apparel, have signed an industrial and financial agreement through which Goldwin will become minority shareholder of Woolrich International by acquiring quotas of WP Lavori in Corso, majority shareholder of Woolrich International. The aim of this operation is to make the Woolrich brand further expand globally, as it starts to offer a new outdoor and more sports-oriented collection of the under the Woolrich name.
Andea Canè, creative director, Woolrich, explained the reasons and future plans of this operation.
Woolrich Europe and Woolrich Inc. merged together a year ago. What are the benefits you expect from this new merging with Goldwin and the involvement of another partner only less than a year after from the first operation?
Goldwin is a leader in technical outdoor apparel. They are a top-notch industrial partner in this field as they hold the rights for the use of brands like The North Face in for Japan and Korea. They produce and sell highly functional sportswear brands including Helly Hansen, Danskin and Ellesse as they hold the rights to produce and sell them in Japan. They are also licensors of the Speedo and Black & White brands in Japan, plus they own their own multisport brands Goldwin and C3Fit.
Moreover, they own an amazing R&D center, the Goldwin Technical Centre based in Japan, through which they develop incredible technology. They are great experts in developing new technology and material. Consider, for instance, that they are now developing a new biodegradable polymer that is not obtained from oil.
They also own the rights for employing Gore-Tex for sportswear products–differently from us who can only employ it for casualwear products. They have such high-level know-how in the outdoor and sports apparel field that it might have taken us at least three years before we reached a similar level.
Plus, as we wanted to focus on the outdoor segment to better serve the US market with highly technical jackets, we thought it was the right move to do. Not less important, we had already worked with them in the past when we employed their highly advanced technical materials. So, rather than starting ourselves this path on our own we decided we could do it with them as we already trusted each other.
When will you offer the first products manufactured in collaboration with Goldwin?
We will develop a first capsule collection of about 20 items to be delivered by f/w 2018-19. We won’t show them at any trade show, but simply to a very few retailers. We want to start selling this first capsule in our stores, via the Web and only through a very limited wholesale distribution of about 50 stores worldwide.
By f/w 2019-20, we will launch our first real complete outdoor collection that will also complete our Woolrich John Rich & Bros collection, the one now mostly sold in Europe.
Are you considering selling this new outdoor collection only in fall/winter?
Differently from what one may expect, Goldwin is stronger in the seasons we are weaker. They sell best during mid- seasons and in summer, while we sell best in colder seasons. This way, thanks to this alliance, we can also start offering our clients a wider selection of products they can sell regularly all-year long. In addition, thanks to their expertise we can also enter a different type of store from the usual boutique type selling our Woolrich John Rich & Bros and expand in outdoor stores too.
What brands and products will the new alliance bring ahead?
Our main product engines are three: there is our contemporary high-end outerwear Woolrich John Rich & Bros brand, originating from Italy, mostly sold in Europe and the rest of the world; then we find the Woolrich Outdoor collection now developed in Tokyo by Goldwin; and a third selection of products manufactured by our US Woolrich mill based in Pennsylvania and specialized in premium quality woolen fabrics since 1830, when the brand was founded.
The US company will now continue producing its always softer woolen fabric qualities also for both of our European and Japanese branches. It will continue to produce its top quality woolen blankets and also develop special projects like, for instance, a recent collaboration blanket for rapper Drake Ovo and in the next few weeks, a new blanket collaboration Woolrich x Supreme.
Among our future plans, starting from 2019, we also aim to start a rebranding strategy by offering all of our different products and collections.
How will you manage different markets globally?
We at WP Lavori will continue managing the European, US and Canadian markets; Goldwin will manage Japan and Korea. We will focus on China in a second phase through an agreement among us three US, Japan and Italian partners, even if WP Lavori continues to own and manage the majority stake of this alliance.
Will you open any flagship stores?
We would like to open five flagship stores that are bigger, completely different from the other already existing ones and selling all the brands of our offer, including our footwear collection.
The first flagship will open in Milan’s central Corso Venezia by mid November 2017. A second one will be inaugurated in Tokyo in fall 2018. By fall 2019 we will open two more in London and New York. We also want to inaugurate a fifth one in Paris, though we shall first create some brand awareness. This will take some time and it will open its doors in fall 2020.
What are you sales expectations after the agreement with Goldwin?
We don’t expect big change from what we had in mind before. Our revenues are today US$190 million. We want to reach US$300 million sales by 2022.