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Madewell Continues Its Genius Growth Strategy: Knowing Exactly What You Want

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"Evolution not revolution" is the name of the game at Madewell. That was its design statement for spring, but it rings through the brand's fall offerings as well, which press got an early look at this week. Things at Madewell don't change wildly season to season, they just get updated, tweaked, expanded. A prime example is the brand's best-selling Transport Tote, a versatile leather carryall that your high school-age cousin, laptop-toting boss, and new mom friend all probably own. For fall, it'll be available with a zipper at the top and pockets on the exterior, a response to customer requests, Madewell head of design Somsack Sikhounmuong tells Racked.

Last time we spoke, Somsack joked that he wanted Madewell to become "Jumpsuits 'R' Us" with a selection of one pieces vast enough to earn the title. He's gotten his wish, reporting that jumpsuit styles have been customer favorites, to his pleasant surprise (they even have their own hub on the brand's site). Another item surpassing expectations is flared denim, especially in light washes, which Madewell is actually having trouble keeping in stock to meet demand. For fall, the two are married in a flared denim jumpsuit. This is a nice example of fall's design statement: "Switch the context, change the story," all about an evolution of fall staples like plaid, school uniforms, and jeans.

Denim extends way beyond pants—and jumpsuits—showing up in knee-length skirts, shearling-lined moto jackets, and parkas. "It's about building a denim wardrobe," Somsack explains. "Everyone has a pair of skinnies," he furthers, assuring us "skinnies aren't going anywhere. They'll always be a staple."

Madewell is doing a good job balancing staples like denim, leather totes, and sturdy ankle boots with more grown-up and fashion-forward styles as the brand ages with its core customer and aims to gain traction with a wider audience. The label saw sales growth of 35% last year, and has added big wholesale accounts like Net-a-Porter and Nordstrom to its distribution plan. Soon, Madewell's site will ship to 170 countries, and by the end of the year, it'll grow to 100 retail locations in the States.