Matt Bernson is marking 10 years by taking a new approach to his business. The New York-based designer, who founded his brand in 2006, went back to core basics and producing in Brazil for the spring ’16 season — moves that come as the casual momentum continues across the industry.
The styles are reflected at his second store, which recently opened in Westport, Conn. The product direction and retail push, including expanding e-commerce, are generating more buzz for Bernson’s namesake brand.
“There is a lot of positive momentum going on. It’s a paired-down line with a really simple focus,” said Bernson. “We realize there is this appetite for what we do well and styles that will be classic. It’s our basics updated with a modern twist.”
The Connecticut store opened in late March and marks the second location for the brand, which debuted its first branded unit in New York City’s Tribeca neighborhood in 2012. “It has been performing well,” Bernson said.“There are a lot of corporate-run stores in the area, so we stand out being independent.”
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The designer said while no future leases have been signed, Boston is on the brand’s radar.
“We’re seeing really fantastic sell-throughs and a really loyal customer base online,” said Bernson.
Plus, the brand is celebrating its third collaboration with Goop.com. The relationship started for spring ’15, and Bernson said the label benefits from the site’s large audience.
“There is a shared aesthetic between our brand and their overall look — it’s clean and casual and modern,” he said. “We created a bootie called the Nirvana [an ankle boot with shearling lining], and there are very few places where that would resonate, but it works with the healthy lifestyle of the site’s readers.”
Bernson’s business has also resonated with Shopbop.com.
“I value his team’s dedication and willingness to collaborate with us to foster a growing business together,” said associate buyer Amy Keefe. “Matt Bernson is a unique line in that it has the ability to react to what is happening in the ever-changing marketplace without sacrificing the integrity of the brand and its vision.”
Next up, Bernson will build his international business. The designer is eyeing new wholesale partners in Europe, London, Paris, Spain and Hong Kong.
Overall, Bernson said the lack of originality is the biggest challenge across the industry.“When you walk into stores, you often see a lot of the same product mix,” he said. “It’s not good for the consumer; there are a lot of challenges to [stand out].”
But that same obstacle may present the right opportunity for Bernson’s brand. The designer is predicting a 40 percent increase in sales this year compared with 2015.
“The most exciting thing is [consumers] really thinking for themselves and going to independent brands for newness,” he said. “People aren’t necessarily just buying brands that have huge billboards — they are focusing on product that they think is cool and represents their style.”