Ksubi Sells Out to David Jones?

Georgina Safe, fashion editor for The Australian Newspaper today wrote a very interesting and intriguing article about Ksubi fashion label founders Dan Single and George Gorrow.  Its definately worth a read

The article focuses on Ksubi’s strategic growth strategy as a business, and discusses the fact that as of today (October 2009), Ksubi will become a household David Jones label stocked in 33 of its stores throughout the country.  The Ksubi – David Jones partnership will include 19 ‘shop-in-shop’ concept stores, where Ksubi will be stocking over 100 fashion styles and designs.

Spin the globe to the other side of the world and Ksubi are applying a similar concept within the UK, stocking within a concession stand at the famous TopShop menswear department at the flagship Oxford Circus (London) store.

The strategic move to go ‘less boutique and more mainstream’ is no doubt a move that Dan and George planned, given the appointment of Harry Hodge (founder of Quiksilver Europe) to manage the business side of Ksubi. Unsurprisingly, Ksubi plans to launch a fully-fledged footwear/shoe collection and optical range for 2010, thus expanding their fashion labels reach.

However, what prompted us to write this article was this line:

“Ksubi has reduced the price point of its DJs range in a bid to better engage with the broader customer base, with entry-level fashion pieces starting at just $69 and denim ranging from $179.95 up to $350 for the brand’s premium jeans and more technical abrasions, washes and finishing touches.”

Australian Fashion Review cannot help but sigh when an iconic Australian label such as Ksubi ultimately sells out to the dollar. Ksubi (actually Tsubi before they got sued) was a successful boutique fashion label that shot to success because it made custom denim jeans in Australia. Fast forward to 2009 and it seems that Ksubi is focusing on quantity of sales rather than quality of sales. In our eyes, the pricing decrease is the first step to “Made in China” sell them by the boat load clothing items.

Have we gone too far? Are we being to harsh on Ksubi considering so many Australian labels have branched out to offer cheaper off-shoot labels to cash in? Examples include – Hi There by Karen Walker(NZ) for Myer, Nylon Flocks by Nicola Finetti, S & B by Sass and Bide, Stella McCartney for Target Australia, Peter Morrissey underwear for Big W Australia. There are many more of course, but we’re sure you get the point.

David Bush, general manager of womenswear at David Jones said:

“They’ve [Ksubi] been really clever about it because they’ve made it more affordable but it’s still got a hard edge, it’s very sexy and very Ksubi.”

Is this True? Is Ksubi still got edge? Is it still Sexy and is it very Ksubi? For some reason I think the one person who should of got a mention but didn’t – Gareth Moody (the other founder who now runs his own show via label Chronicles of Never) would agree that the strategic direction of Ksubi to become more mainstream is not only a strategic business move, but rather a complete overhaul of its image as a quality fashion label.

Ksubi got its edge for being boutique. Ksubi just lost its edge for being to mainstream. This is why brand perceptions matter so very much. No offence to Ksubi, but your hard edge is smoothing out.

Let us know your thoughts on the new Ksubi – hitting stores via DJ’s Topshop and maybe soon to be Kmart?

Your comments please.

Comments 22

  1. silky

    Although the article picks on fashion label Ksubi, it raises concern on a broader scale about the viability of boutique fashion labels. I don’t know about everyone else, but I certainly don’t think there is any money in either running a boutique store, or only selling to boutique stores. In the end of the day, money talks and walks all over image perception. If its dollar in the back pocket, they will always sell out.

  2. smith

    Ksubi’s image has been on a downward spiral for a long long time. I totally agree with the perception of Ksubi changing since initial launch in the fashion market all those years ago. Although many people don’t look at where stuff is made in, I do and its almost all from China now. Back in the day, ksubi stuff was all made in Australia.

  3. roy

    Australian Fashion Review – why pick on Ksubi? – Like you mention, all the labels sell out eventually. Dan and George are not born business men, they are artists trying to get more bang for their buck. Ksubi jeans and sunglasses I can handle – Selling ksubi shoes is like the ultimate cope-out to the label I reckon.

  4. Tina

    Hmm an interesting view on it all but in reality it shoes how David Jones and Myer are the ultimate department boutiques. What I mean is they offer all these boutique labels so why not stock with them. It makes it easy for the customer and designer to connect.

  5. ........

    Sass and Bide did the same thing! They’re in David Jones and now Glue stores! They’re doing production in China and their prices have stayed the same. No one seemed to care about that. At least ksubi are passing down the discount. You have to do what you can to survive. Good on them for finally getting their business in order. I know from personal experience that boutique don’t pay and go under all the time, leaving us to foot their bill. You need to have your guaranteed cash flow… You would do the same!

  6. Woof Woof

    I agree with Silky, a business is a business, it’s a business decision. Plus, there must be other stakeholders involved who have contributed to the Ksubi strategy.

    But surely you can stick to boutiques and make money. Before Ksubi sold out to DJ’s, they were already millionaires, Young and Rich a few times, bling bling!! Plus if you had the opportunity to capture more market share without much compromise, you do the maths. 😉

    I don’t necessarily think that department stores are the only way, in fact there have been articles about Department Stores in Australia destroying labels, not the brand image, but with harsh 120 day payment terms, dropping labels at will if they don’t perform, losing boutique stockists from heavy department store discounting.

    I do think as a label you can still make a decent living selling to boutiques, just make sure you have good cash flow and liquidity, and try to get payment upfront or at least cover your production costs when boutiques place orders. Perhaps hold off on opening a boutique or flagship store, that will just suck your money dry with all those overheads, open a store only when you won’t jeopardise your entire business if the shop goes down, you’d better be ready.

    As for opening multi-label boutiques, a perfect example of a successful boutique chain is Belinda, I was surprise to see that she had both The Corner Shop and Belinda on little William St in Paddington, she must be doing well for her self, perhaps she would like to comment, “Belinda? Belinda? Can you stop counting your cash for a second and make a comment??”

    Edge for being boutique?? Has Ksubi lost its edge for being too mainstream?? If you got my initial pun, then you’d know my opinion. I think if you were to survey a few hundred fashion consumers in Australia between the ages of 17 – 35 if Ksubi still has the edge?? Or do they still consider Ksubi edgy without influencing their opinion with an article like above, I have a feeling I myself might be surprised, mmmmm, but then again, every time the Ksubi name pops up, it hasn’t been positive, plus who would be keeping records for them anyway, apparently they can’t even keep records for them selves.

    Yes, Dan and George can argue that brand Ksubi is still edgy and in high demand and thus wanted their brand to be more affordable to its fans, while Dan and George’s nose’s grow a few inches, which could come in handy for all those late night parties.

    And finally the humble Gareth Moody, this is why the industry loves him so much; he just makes very diplomatic comments about his former partners. I think we should all go to Manly and hangout with him over the weekend!

  7. Post

    Not surprisingly, this post has attracted a number of great responses already. We’d like to thank all contributors thus far.

    One point we should reiterate is that although our article seems slanderous, our intention was not to defame Ksubi but rather raise the issue of how brands position themselves in the ever changing fashion industry.

    Trust us, we have been big fans of Ksubi – that is why we have featured them so many times in our posts. The one aspect that we found was different with Ksubi compared to other labels is the fact that their image has undoubtedly altered over the years. That is why Ksubi is such a point of interest when talking about brand perception.

    Dan and George, please accept that we mean no harm. And to you readers, stop sending us emails complaining! If you want to comment, comment on the blog post!

    The Australian Fashion Review Team

  8. Curdles

    interesting thoughts – i also think it brings into account the internet because people are starting to buy fashion online. If you can buy designer fashion online, the whole concept of what a shop or store completely changes.

    I read a good interview with the founder of frockshop Marnie Goss (frockshop is an online store) and it said in the interview that frockshop gets about 4 million hits a month and between 50 – 100 transactions a day! that is a huge amount of people visiting online stores and buying compared to an actual boutique shop. just another thought….

  9. Anonymous

    Gareth is in the same boat and has also just sold out to David Jones and General Pants under his Black Noise White Rain label.

    The same goes for iconic Melbourne based Claude Maus with their Claude diffusion and soon to be Fernando for Myer from Fernando Frisoni.

    Everyone is doing it, get over it.

  10. PM

    I must say i noticed the ksubi range at DJ’s over the wend and the quality is crap! Obviously now they are definatly focussed on quantity and not quality. A great brand that was once made quality pieces in Australia and the US is now made in China. Such a shame. Don’t they realise that ppl actually do care about quality and will pay for it.

  11. Nathan

    Great article and comments by the way!

    don’t get me wrong, I used to love Ksubi. But unfortunately they have become too mainstream for my liking.

    The fact that I can now walk down the street and see teeny boppers or metro’s wrapped in Ksubi is such a turn off when there was probably little behind the purchase other than walking into David Jones and wearing what they say is the new ‘trend’

    I am also saddened by the fact that their manufacturing has gone offshore. What’s worse is that I can now search Ebay and find 100 or so pairs of fake Ksubi’s. What’s even sadder is I don’t know what quality will be worse, they’re both made for pennies!

    I have since focused my interests onto Gareth Moody and Chronicles of Never. I admired him even more for sticking to boutiques but I too was a little annoyed to hear a few months ago that his diffusion line was hitting General Pants. A few of his products were on the online website but have since disappeared so i’m not sure if there was a withdrawal in that decision.

    It will be interesting to see how brand perception changes in the next 6 – 12 months

  12. Josh

    i agree, i’ve never worn ksubi’s but i always admired the brand for their boutique image, fare enough when they branched to general pants but david jones is just plain g*y. Similary with Gareth Moody, i wish he would have kept his C.O.N rage strictly to boutiques because it pisses me off how i’ll wear my CON shoes which cost me a bit and where hard to find, and then i see some other dicks wearing the cheaper difusion line around for cheaper thinking there pretty special because they have o0o0o cool shoes from general pants. f*ckers.

    without a doubt mainstream blows.

  13. Jamie

    While it is much better financially for Ksubi as a brand to go into DJs, I reckon mingling with other denim brands will erode their brands “uniqueness”. When you see piles and piles of denim from 25 different *designer* labels on DJ’s sale trolleys its hard to believe that one is worth $350 and the other is worth $170. It all becomes abit too *targety* for the consumer.

    For example I think they are ALL made in the same factory with different labels on them.

    By opening unique shops, Ksubi can preserve and control their price/image. Although it does cost alot of money for them to invest in their own stores, given the warehousey/ pop up shop feel they have going on with their other stores I guess customers won’t care if the store looks like a dumpster ( as long as it dont smell like one).

    But perhaps if they truly believe in their brand they can team up with successful retail operators like Nigel from Cotton On and together open 20 stores across Australia where one controls the supply and own the retail side. Just making sure that NONE of the Ksubi stuff ends up on the $5 cotton on racks. LOL

    I think lowering their price point is a good idea but it would open their brand up to alot more competition and comparison from brands from lower price points.

    I believe fashion is the same with watches. The biggest and most domninant brands don’t always operate at the mid end.. they operate at the high end with incredibly large margins and minimal discounting. The nature of denim is that its too fashiony but if Ksubi can convince consumers of the “investment” property of their $500 jeans and sell alot of them… then they can be both “high class/boutique” and ” masstige/ profitible”

    Its all about competing where the profitibality is highest I guess.

  14. daniel

    if you judge clothes on how cool the brand is,on whether you see a teeny bopper or a metro wearing them , on what stores their sold in . how exclusive the brand is, i think your a f*cken idiot, i like ksubi clothes as i reckon quite simply they look good. i bet you like bands/ djs for a while , until they get a fan base and start making a bit of money and then they’ve sold outand you whinge to anyone wholl listen about how they used to be good. It’s a pretty obscure reference but it reminds me of a song by lagawagon called ‘Know it all” ,its about a college radio dj, a line in the lyrics goes “The bands are good to they make enough cash to eat food and get a pad , and then they’ve sold out and their musics cliche, cause talents exclusive to bands without pay.
    with Ksubi, it was simple, either make more money or die, wat would you do.

  15. Andy

    I’ve worn Ksubi jeans for longer than I can remember, they simply have something that their direct competitors (ie Nudie) do not and they feel a little more ‘real’. Stocking in DJs certainly takes away from their hardened boutique edge/image, and brand image is paramount regardless of what anyone says, but given that other boutiques such as Nudie and Claud Maus do the same I guess it’s just how it is in Australia.

    A little sad, but if all the jeans labels are on par in that they all stock at DJs I guess it levels things out a bit. All the Ksubi campaigns still scream street edge etc and so I think they will continue to only attract that particular demographic for the most part – most people who want to spend a sh*t load on a known label to look ‘edgy’ will just buy Nudies anyway *laughs*.

    But do people really think that this makes Ksubis unwearable for those who want dress well and not look like you just walked into a department store? I don’t really think so but maybe I’m just holding on? :)


  16. tom

    How about u all stop trashing ksubi and get a life. go and wear your g-star and freshjive and leave ksubi to its loyal customers. ive been buying ksubi since i was sixteen and earning 10.50 an hour working at woolworths, and i will continue to buy till the label discontinues.

    All hail the fashion gods of australia.

  17. dracula.

    Who ever posted that Gareth Moody has sold out, by putting his sister label blacknoise/whiterain in general pants, or similar places, and then compares that to ksubi , you my sir, are not quite on point.

    Ksubi have sold production overseas.
    chronicles, and even its sister brand, even though more affordable, is still 100% australian made, with imported silks/denim etc.

    Ksubi have sold production over seas and doesnt have the quality it used to have in the materials dept. Which saddens me, i liked ksubi.

    Gareth is keeping that shit real, even if his sidebrand is in GP/DJs,Its still at the forefront of things in design terms, ksubi are just doing rehashes of old shit, and it saddens me so.

  18. Peeping tom

    Dracula it’s funny you should mention that….. I’ve just viewed the look book for both CON & BNWR for AW11 – I’m sorry but I fear Gareth is running low on ideas as well.

    I’m getting so sick of him repeating designs… If I buy something from one collection I don’t expect it to see it next season transferred from CON to BNWR and converted to a cheaper price point.

    If he’s going to take the road of profits and create a diffusion line… don’t assume you can pull the wool over our eyes with mediocre rehash as well.

  19. Vintage Clothing

    Yeah, great article with an interesting spin of things. It will be interesting to see how the industry goes as I think in a few years time – people will be willing to purchase local produce garments oppose to china (fall apart – throw away goods).

    Sad days all round.

  20. BluntKrayon

    This still stings a bit to be honest. I’m a bit late on the uptake of the Ksubi, but I’m a convert. I don’t like the fact that they sold out to David Jones; I actually bought my first pair from the Paddington store, only for the fact that my ex-girlfriend use to rave on and on about them, years before it all took off.

    But having said that, it’s a business decision to keep the company alive; there will always have to be compromise in everything. Sure you might lose your “edginess”, but it’s better than keeping to your principles and then shutting up shop, never to be seen again.

    I must point out though, in regards to the production quality; I’ll avoid any pairs of Ksubi’s that are made in China. You can still find some that are made in Australia and US (look for the different buttons, rather than the generic full-plus button they have on them these days).

    But a point of interest regarding Chronicles of Never; my brother found a pair in a boutique store, and even though they’re made in Australia, the quality wasn’t so great. The buttons on the button fly, came off while trying them on! He still decided to buy a pair, and a couple of months later, the buttons on the button fly came off as well! Make what you will.

    Buy what you like. Don’t buy things because other people do, or don’t have them. Trying to make a statement, just for the sake of making a statement, is just as bad as selling out / being mainstream…

  21. it really is a CON people

    As someone who works in the very small circles of the Australian fashion industry, it is sad to see that most of the above opinions and impressions of both labels is hinged largely on the pr and image both these brands spend huge sums to project.

    The reality is that both brands now manufacture overseas, CON jewellery, footwear and a large portion of garments are made in Asia, mainly Indonesia and China.

    Both these companies have adopted very aggressive tactics with stockists in terms of competion – there are instances where these labels will efffectively push smaller independent labels they deem as direct competition or similar in ways out of retail stores. They do this by establishing themselves in a store, then threatening to pull out of stocking them if they continue to sell said competition. Of course it ultimately comes down to a decision by the stockist on whether to succumb to this, but these labels know they have the following, and often broader market coverage (for example, if Chronicles has clothing, jewellery, shoes and bags in a store and they want to push out a smaller jewellery label, the buyer will obviously opt to keep the label which covers more scope).

    This was a strategy undertaken heavily by the Ksubi boys back when they were establishing themselves and it is a shame that the same tactics are being used by Gareth in the running of his business. What is more unfortunate is that with the clout these individuals have, particularly in Australia, it continues to work.

    Finally I think it is important to remember that both these labels, in particular CON, have heavily appropriated what are very common and “done before” trends or aesthetics in Asia and Europe. The fact that they are worshipped as Gods back home, as someone wrote above, and feel they have the right to slander other brands or individuals they see as getting in their way is quite simply very underhanded and disgusting behaviour.

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