There’s been quite some buzz surrounding US headwear purveyor New Era lately. In October last year, the brand secured a deal to become official headwear partner of the NBA (National Basketball Association). To celebrate the partnership, the brand has brought out a number of specially designed caps across the EMEA region. We caught up with Laurence Joslin, Brand Director EMEA, in London on the eve of the NBA Global Games last week to shed light on the brand’s latest moves in the lifestyle arena.
New Era appeals to a wide demographic. How do you keep the attention and loyalty of younger consumers, such as the fickle millennials?
Like all other brands, we have to work really hard at keeping up with younger consumers, like the millennials, who are known to be forthright with very strong opinions. Our team travel constantly and we’re always looking, talking and learning wherever we go – be it to tradeshows, fashion weeks, or a bustling street in a new city. We get our insights from all different areas, online and in the physical world, and we use trend agencies to help us develop each of our four yearly collections as well as our quick-to-market product drops. We also talk to consumers directly via open forums. Some are young consumers, others are cap addicts and collectors – though they’re not necessarily the ones setting the trends. So far, we’ve been lucky that the early adopters want to enter into a conversation with us in the first place. I think this is due to the fact that we’re able to react quickly to their demands for new product with which they can express themselves, and that we have authenticity as a brand.
In addition, to connecting with millennials, it’s about creating compelling content against each story. Content is king and we are heavily focused on creating and delivering this across all our channels.
What specific designs and features have you brought out for the younger consumer lately?
The youth market has continued to demand both camo and tonal black or white. At the same time ’90s sportswear has reappeared in a strong way. We also play around a lot with the execution of our embroidery and applications, using anything from liquid chrome embellishment to reflective versions and embroideries. We make sure to drop products from each of our four annual collections at different times in order to offer something new. Also, New Era by You is a customization project we’re set to develop further. It’s not the biggest part of the business but some customers really like personalizing their caps.
New Era is celebrating its 100th anniversary in 2020 and it’s still a family-owned business. What are the advantages of working for an independent company?
In today’s market, you have to be reactive and nimble. Being a family-owned company with a fluid system, we’re able to react quickly to shifts in the market, sudden micro trends and general consumer demand to bring out small product drops. Similarly, if a retailer tells us they want something in particular, we’re able to deliver it incredibly quickly.
Please give us a couple of examples of “reactive” products.
Quick-to-market product can result in something as simple as a certain color scheme or an interesting embellishment, but we’re also flexible in terms of silhouettes. The 9 is a collection of caps that is one of our latest designs and it came about as a direct result of listening to our consumers, who gave us the feedback that they’d love a streamlined, lightweight cap for everyday use. This materialized in three casual sportswear silhouettes tailored for everyday life.
New Era caps featured in Astrid Andersen’s AW17 runway show at London Fashion Week Men’s. Tell us about this particular partnership and your approach to collabs in general.
We like to start relationships with interesting artists and designers, established and up and coming alike. Astrid Andersen felt like a really good fit due to her strong references to sportswear adopted by some of the global stars in basketball and music. In the past we’ve teamed up with the likes of Henry Holland, Kenzo, Liberty London and The Martinez Brothers. Our collaboration with Astrid Andersen resulted in a collection of caps designed in line with her collection, which centered on masculine opulence. The clothes and matching caps were crafted from materials such as velvets and gold lace. Not all collaborations have to be commercialized though. In some instances, they’re bespoke pieces celebrating the work of the creatives we get involved in, helping them to realize their vision.
New Era’s launched apparel four years ago. How is the line coming along?
It’s a building part of our business and it will continue to develop. It’s very much lifestyle-led, targeting men mostly – though the women’s side is growing across the business so you’ll see developments on that front, too. As for the type of pieces we offer, there are bombers, hoodies, sweatshirts and varsity jackets… it’s all very Americana since that’s our heritage, we wouldn’t bring out, say, raincoats for the sake of it.