The wait for international product is slowly disappearing, with an increasing number of European favourites opening shop in Australia. UK high street chain Reiss is the latest of many to plant their presence in Melbourne, proving our appetite for international fashion is so voracious, we can barely withstand a shipping time.
While the UK-based brand already shipped here, founder David Reiss is adamant that a bricks and mortar store is answering the call of a new breed of shoppers. “[Other retailers] talk about how challenging the market is but the reality is, it’s not so much about being challenged, it’s about people’s spending habits that are changing,” David tells Collective Hub. “People are being much more discerning and you have to have a real point of view, and I suppose what’s exciting us and our partners: we’re positioned in the market is such a good place to be.”
Where Reiss is positioned in the UK is a good place to be, too. The brand, which opened its first store in 1971 in London’s Bishopsgate district, has been a popular mainstay on the high street scene since then, getting a discernible boost when they ventured into womenswear in 2000, then later, when the Duchess of Cambridge chose a perfectly pretty (and note, reasonably priced) navy blue Reiss wrap dress to announce her engagement to Prince William. She also sported Reiss to meet the Obamas and has since become and unofficial ambassador of the tailored, low-cost luxury brand.
And although the brand is UK-based, it garners a notable international following – with stores in 15 countries, from Hong Kong to Beirut. But although the brand is stretching its in-house reach even further, that doesn’t mean any compromises will be made, notes David. With online and social media channels already reaching an international audience, the company knows their customers are more discerning than ever.
“[Customers] don’t want to be second class citizens with products from the season behind,” David says. “Historically, and there’s a level of frustration when I spoke to people over [in Australia] in the fashion business, they don’t want to be behind, they want what’s relevant now, they want to make sure they’ve got it.” In order to cater for international demand, the chain focuses on trans-seasonal product that will be in all stores at the same time – no time lags.
“At the moment, we have several stores in the Middle East – we’re [also] in Los Angeles, we’re in Miami… so this is where obviously you have to cater to the local market in the sense of the climate, such an important part. “We have to make sure we’ve always got that exciting product, all the way through. If it’s hot product around the other side of the world, it’s got to be hot in Australia and that’s what we’re bringing.”
But as the doors of the St. Collins Lane store opens, David is in the process of shutting another – the majority stake in the company he founded, built and watched flourish, for over forty years has been recently sold to private equity firm Warburg Pincus. So how does he feel, as a founder, to sell his a huge chunk of his company?
“I felt very proud when the word got out because it’s a real sense of recognition,” David says. “What has happened to Reiss and where we’ve taken the business over the last 40 odd years… this is just what we are now. It’s just a level of acceptance, this is a business decision it was obviously a very important day in the company’s history.” But selling his majority stake to Warburg Pincus doesn’t mean he’s stepping down – quite the contrary. Staying on as company chairman, he’s now even more focused on product and the brand, and he’s taking this attitude into his new Australian stores.
“Though it’s thousands of miles away, we’ve got to make sure the same ethos [and] the whole philosophy of the business is enraptured in Australia – it’s very important.”
Reiss opens today on St. Collins Lane, Melbourne.