How streetwear brand Unknown went global selling rhinestone hoodies

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A collaboration with the streetwear brand Ed Hardy, inspired by its vintage rhinestone models, sold out last year. The partnership recognized Ed Hardy’s influence on Unknown’s rhinestone streetwear and also tapped into the Y2K macro-trend, which has seen a resurgence of brands such as Ed Hardy, Von Dutch, True Religion and Juicy Couture. “Ed Hardy’s vintage stuff was so perfect for what we were doing anyway, we adapted it for all of our clients,” says Granger. “We played with vintage parts and vintage graphics.”

Global Retail Footprint and Booming DTC

While DTC remains its primary source of income, Unknown has built a strong reseller network in Japan, which accounts for 20 of its 30 accounts. Japan took off for Unknown after the duo met Japanese fashion distributor Shota Takemoto at Paris Fashion Week.

“Japanese streetwear fans were hungry for something new to go crazy for,” says Takemoto. “Since SS20, Unknown’s sales have been more and more important [each season]there isn’t a day that I don’t see [someone wearing] the collection of rhinestones in all cities of Japan.

European retailers include Parisian concept store Second Chapter and Galeries Lafayette Germany. Unknown has also been sold since Fall/Winter 2020 by Italy’s Luisaviaroma, where the brand is selling “fantastically well”, according to Andrea Selvi, the store’s menswear buying manager. “Our customers are looking for premium streetwear brands,” he says. “Unknown offers a unique, recognizable style worn by famous influencers. In addition, the price is perfect for our consumers.

Unknown secured its first US retailers during Spring/Summer 2022, purchasing the LA 430 Fairfax concept store (opposite the Supreme store on Fairfax Avenue) and the New York concept store Ctrl Alt Delete.

Unknown’s business is still dominated by the UK, encouraging the founders to hope for “room for growth” overseas, Vineer says. The brand is planning an upcoming pop-up European tour – possibly without the bus. “Just go make some noise in any town. There’s always kind of a chain reaction from there,” he says.

There are no plans for a permanent physical store. For now, Unknown is focused on expanding its categories beyond the original hoodies and caps, adding accessories, outerwear, and even mystery boxes. Right now, adding shoes is one of the main focus. “We really want to make sneakers,” Veneer says, anticipating a late Spring/Summer 2023 launch. There’s no shortage of ambition. “I don’t see why we can’t go all the way,” Granger said. “And to be one of the go-to streetwear brands on the planet.”

Takeaway key: The British high-end streetwear label mixes a hands-on approach, garment dyeing, cashier work in pop-up stores and direct interaction with their fan base on social media, to create a multi-million pound brand . Tapping into wholesalers to reach a global customer keen on high-end streetwear, and expanding into new categories such as footwear, is helping the brand build a long-term business.

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