On Nov. 30, Kith will be honored as Retailer of the Year at the 36th annual FN Achievement Awards. Below is an article from the magazine’s Nov. 28 print issue about how Kith continues to redefine and reimagine the modern retail experience.
While other retailers have etched clear lines that define who their consumer is, Kith blurs them all.
This year, the powerhouse retailer kept consumers of all ages hooked with collaborations and releases that only Kith mastermind Ronnie Fieg could dream up. For instance, Kith tapped Jerry Seinfeld, Edward Norton, Ghostface Killah and Raekwon of Wu-Tang Clan to appear in campaigns, and it delivered collabs with the likes of BMW, Columbia and bedding company Parachute.
With this diverse mix, Fieg continually reshapes the fashion landscape, creating an upscale lifestyle meant to be attainable for all.
“It’s nothing short of extraordinary to witness how the Kith team consistently pushes the envelope year after year and is constantly evolving every facet of their business,” Colin Brickley, Asics America sales director for SportStyle, told FN.
Here, Fieg explains how he’s ensured Kith remains a leader in the ultracompetitive retail world.
Mid-pandemic, all the talk in retail was digital. But this year, people returned to stores in droves. How has that impacted Kith?
“It’s in our DNA to give an A-plus experience in the shop and to invest in experiences, so nothing has changed for us. I’ve always seen that part of the business as an open box to play in. Every store includes learnings from previous shops. That’s why the experience, I believe, is getting better and the categories of business are getting better.”
With all your collections and collaborations, how do you translate that into the retail experience?
“When I pass the baton later in my career, I want these spaces to feel like homes for people. I want people to have relationships with my staff, to spend their weekend in a space they feel connected to. That emotional connection is important to uphold. It’s not a formula. I don’t know how many multibrand retail shops are also their own brand. I know it doesn’t happen often because it’s difficult to do. We chose the hardest route.”
How do you maintain that as you globalize?
“The people that run the shop need to be immersed in the world and understand the brand from the inside out. We’re a New York brand. Our flagship is in SoHo, and the traffic in that space is insane. Pablo Karmel who runs the Paris store, he was the GM of SoHo. It’s important for people to understand the brand and the company’s DNA from home base first.”
High-fashion retailers give off an illusion of walking into a special place. How have you created your version of this?
“Some of these luxury companies, they alienate consumers who can’t afford their brands. For us, the goal is to make Kith available to everyone who wants a special product or experience and not be confined by a dollar amount. Kith Treats was created for you to be able to consume the brand for $7.50 or $8. What makes us the people’s champ of modern luxury is the fact that you can visit the store and not feel like you need to buy anything to have a good time. I care that the experience they have in the shop is A-1. Them buying product is a byproduct of that.”
How do you define modern luxury?
“I am a firm believer that product will always be king. Our products need to last, and they need to be timeless but still move the needle when it releases. I think we’re the No. 1 value brand. Value is kicked around as a down-market word. Value of time, value of product — I want to sit in the center of those two circles. A lot of people do each of those things well, but doing them together is difficult.”
How do you stay at the forefront of the cultural conversation?
“We feel like certain people need to be celebrated. Edward Norton needs to be celebrated, but in our market, in our world, in our culture. Jerry Seinfeld was never shown in product like ours before. I feel like it’s my responsibility to celebrate those that have helped get me to where I am. The casting portion of what we do, whether it’s shooting a campaign or featuring someone in a lookbook, is important and something we take seriously — and it’s strategic. I love the chemistry we have internally and knowing exactly what’s right for the brand.”
For 36 years, the annual FN Achievement Awards — often called the “Shoe Oscars” — have celebrated the style stars, best brand stories, ardent philanthropists, emerging talents and industry veterans. The 2022 event is supported by presenting sponsor Nordstrom, as well as Caleres, FDRA, Merrell, Vibram and Volumental.