No, Shades of Black is not the sequel to Shades of Grey, but a new gender-neutral brand. Former Diesel Canada chief Joey Adler, who is also a longtime philanthropist, launched it in November with Trey Alligood, a former president and creative director at Gents. The brand offers a functional, 90% gender-neutral collection that is made in Los Angeles. It is produced with custom fabrications such as Japanese silks, lava fabric, Italian leather and suede, comfort stretch denim, ultra-soft French terry and bamboo cotton. The line offers denim pants and jackets, joggers, sweatshirts and hoodies along with bombers, shorts, crops and shirts in black, gray and white. Prices range from $48 to $595.
Here, the founders share their vision of the brand with us.
After spending years working for other parties, why did you start your own business at the beginning of 2017?
Joey Adler (JA): Actually my late husband and I were distributors and licensors for Sergio Valente, we were also official partners of Pepe when it initially launched in 1989 in North America. Other brands to mention are, Avirex securing their licensing for a while during the early ’90s, and we secured the licensing and distribution rights for Diesel in 1985–we were the official distributors for the brand until 2006 when we sold part of our company to Diesel and became partners. So in essence, we have a long history of distribution across many lifestyle brands. We put together our own collections over the years, but certainly we had a lot of success when we concentrated on Diesel exclusively, which we were very proud of.
Having Trey as a partner is a wonderful experience as I get to live through the development journey through the eyes of the new generation.
Was this a long-cherished dream that you had pre-planned?
JA: The minute we started brainstorming with Trey and he kept bringing up the idea of a collection focused on a color palette of black, gray and white, I knew he was onto something. I felt I might have a good sense of understanding that the consumer, especially Millennials, were headed towards a less is more mindset.
Trey Alligood (TA): The concept and name has been percolating in my head for some time, I just needed to find the right partner to help me bring it to life.
What was missing in the collections of other brands?
JA: I don’t want to say that anything is missing, but I do believe the fashion industry is in flux. Great brands are struggling to find their way; some of it is in the business model which is to some extent outdated. More importantly, retail is changing and the supply chain is changing, which makes it difficult for bigger brands to pivot. Innovation is what’s missing. Creating new opportunities and reasons for the consumer to purchase, more importantly the Millennials are looking for brands that are authentic in their values. In today’s retail climate, we are completely exposed, there is no concealing, and everything we present as our story must be transparent and truthful and resonate with authenticity.
Why did you launch Shades of Black as a gender-neutral brand?
TA: We started to develop the brand with five or six unisex pieces, and it quickly evolved from there into an entire gender-neutral collection. It just started to come together and naturally progress and grow in that way.
JA: We started out with the belief that less is more meaning exactly that– this was not about making a statement or riding the wave of a political movement we are living in now. Shades of Black is not about leveraging a social dialog, we support all personal freedoms and the inalienable right to every individual living their lives as they feel they want to, as long as they are not hurting anyone. Shades of Black is really about understanding that we could make a collection where couples could travel light and share each other’s wardrobe, while still maintaining their masculinity and femininity–we wanted to support this notion that you could mix and match a few pieces sharing clothes while on the go, from day to night
Is the name resemblance to the bestseller Shades of Grey purely coincidental? I was immediately reminded of that.
JA: Purely coincidental. We just thought it was a good brand name for the concept of collection and messaging.
What distinguishes the brand from others? Apart from gender neutrality?
TA: The versatility to have each piece work with another. The collection was created to be worn and layered, you can create so many looks from the line and it works across any gender. Our concept is the idea that you could get dressed in the dark, and come out looking stylish and put together. As an example, you can take three of our tops and two bottoms from the collection and create around 16 different outfits.
What challenges arise for the design of a gender-neutral collection?
TA: The fit and sizing has been the most challenging. You have to fit on so many different shapes and sizes to make sure the product works for everyone.
What do you have to consider regarding silhouette, shapes and material?
TA: You have to take into consideration all of those things. The silhouettes can look completely different depending on how you wear them. Some people like to wear styles that are oversized and others prefer a more fitted silhouette. The beauty is every SOB piece looks great any way you decide to wear it. It all comes down to personal styling.
Can you remember the feeling when you held the first samples in your hand and felt that it was getting serious?
TA: Yes! However, it has always been serious for us from the outset. We’re really focused on making SOB a long-term success, we know and understand our audience; we speak to every gender, age and size–for us it’s a step in the right direction.
JA: There was one piece that encompasses everything we set out to do; the gender-neutrality, the color and the subtle intricate detailing that Trey created, this piece is the Erin Eyelet Cardigan, this is when I became very excited.
What are some of the key items within the collection?
TA: Some of the key styles to mention are the custom Lava Phoenix Pullover and Leslie Lounge Pant, Jordan Destroyed Grey Denim Jacket, Corey Cut-Off Varsity Jacket, Erin Eyelet Cardigan, Karter Sleeveless Hoody and the Loverboy Jean.
What is your favorite piece in the collection?
TA: That’s impossible to say. I genuinely love it all! But if I had to choose one piece it would be between the Lava Phoenix Pullover and the Jordan Destroyed Grey Denim Jacket.
In which stores will the brand be sold?
TA: At the moment we are focused on our site. We’re planning on targeting between 10-15 select top retailers for spring ’18 and grow organically from there.
You also have been socially extremely active via your foundation for quite a while now. How do you do it all?
JA: For the last 15 years this question has popped up often and I do have to admit that I sleep very little (but that is not the reason). I believe that the only way to achieve anything of value at any scale is to share and collaborate. Share the good and let many people come into the process, and be a part of it. For the longest time I have believed that the future belongs to the collaborator. My late husband used to say: “Better to be short on ideas and long on execution than to be long on ideas and short on executing them.” When I look at what we’re working hard to achieve here in Venice Beach with the Department of Good and Shades of Black, and the other 20 various partners we are gathering, I cannot stop being in complete awe as to how the universe brings likeminded people together with a shared vision, especially when they’re trying to do good.
I am honored to be working with so many brilliant young talented passionate people such as Trey and others whose commitment makes the difference in achieving our collective goals, which are to help change the world while having fun.
Shades Of Black
114 Washington Blvd, Suite B
Venice CA 90292