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Growing up is hard, but don’t tell that to New York City-based Saturdays NYC, a menswear brand specializing in casual wear worn by the coolest person at your office.
Saturdays is the precocious kid sorting blocks by color before most children utter their first “mama.” The brand’s had a retail shop since day one, and added to its fleet incredibly fast (there are currently eight freestanding stores). Saturdays has always been an incredibly quick learner, and now, at eight years old, it’s flaunting all new everything: new styles, a new upgraded production processes, new manufacturers, and a totally grown-up look.
Saturdays — which was originally Saturdays Surf NYC, but more more on that later — was founded in 2009 by Colin Tunstall, Morgan Collett, and Josh Rosen, three friends who were all connected to the fashion industry in various ways. Just four years into the business, Saturdays opened a second shop in New York as well as two more locations in Japan. The rise, while not undeserved, was mystifyingly fast. A Hypebeast reader echoed what many were feeling in the comments section of a 2013 interview with the brand’s co-founders: “How many tees, jackets, and coffees do you have to sell to just cover the rent part of your overhead for a Tribeca loft office, two [brick and mortars] in Manhattan and two in Japan?”
The first (and most simple) part of that answer comes from Tunstall. He tells Racked that in the early years, Saturdays wasn’t working with any financial backers, and the co-founders’ credit cards were maxed out as a result.
The second part of that answer is a little more in-depth. Saturdays is an almost-perfect case study of a brand that rode the #menswear wave to its highest peak and lived to tell the tale. Men’s interest in clothing and fashion surged in the late 2000s and early 2010s, and prominent menswear blogs, stores, and figures emerged: New York retailer Carson Street Clothiers, the Four Pins blog, and, one year the most popular of the #menswear category, a Shibu Inu named Bodhi who gets dressed in men’s clothing and is the face of an inexplicably popular Instagram account. Not even fucking kidding you. But it didn’t last: Carson Street closed, Four Pins ceased publication, and, despite the continued inexplicable success of Bodhi, Business of Fashion declared “#Menswear Is Dead” last summer.
A key to Saturdays’s success is that the brand keeps going back to tune-up its foundation — by upgrading materials or working with new and better factories to perfect its already-existing items — rather than just add another Jenga block to the tower.
“Constant maintenance, putting out small fires, and making sure all the details are addressed,” Tunstall says when I ask how he was able to emerge mostly unscathed when the #menswear bubble burst.
The spring 2017 collection is the brand’s most ambitious to date and exemplifies how Saturdays has evolved. Saturdays made the usual fodder when it first launched — graphic tees, tank tops, hoodies, and maybe a button-down shirt or two — and produced it in China. But it has since stepped up its efforts. The brand made its first suit in a collaboration with Mr Porter in May of last year, and is now including them in the core collection, along with topcoats.
Sourcing and production for Saturdays’s denim products have also been upgraded. A year ago, the brand started working with America’s original denim maker, Cone Denim, and began producing certain denim items domestically in Los Angeles. The brand now makes its sunglasses in the Japanese town of Sabae, a region dedicated to the manufacturing of eyewear.
Last season, Saturdays moved much of its production to Portugal, a hotspot for brands like A.P.C., Calvin Klein, and Versace that are seeking “quasi-Italian” quality at more affordable prices, according to a Business of Fashion report.
Satudays is growing into a true global brand with manufacturing, sourcing, and retail locations all over the world. The brand’s retail footprint in Japan has doubled to four, and there’s also two Saturdays in Australia now. The two Japanese stores it bet on early paid off handsomely. When I ask how critical its business in Japan has been for growth, Tunstall responds with “massive” and that it’s “almost hard to quantify.” Consider that Saturdays’s New York locations have kept steady at two while Japan has gotten two more in the past couple years.
Saturdays is able to keep growing at such an exponential rate thanks to a healthy wholesale business. Tunstall says that revenue is 50/50 between retail, including online, and wholesale. The brand has picked its partners carefully and is now in a massive number of retailers, including the type of cool and ~ important ~ menswear shops that raise a brand’s profile like Barneys, Paris retailer Collette, Portland’s Machus, England’s END. and Garbstore, and many more.
But growing up isn’t just about making good relationships; you also need to break off the bad ones. For Saturdays, that was having “Surf” in its name. (“We get pigeonholed with that word,” Tunstall says.) It created a barrier between the brand and consumers who might have mistakenly thought it was only about board shorts and tank tops. Tunstall says the brand is still about the surfing lifestyle — traveling, being in nature — but it’s outgrown having it in its moniker. “It’s a small detail, but a big detail at the same time,” he says.
Similarly, the new collection is all about these small but big details. Natural dyes add beautiful faded colors to tops, coats, and half-zips. The brand’s first solo tailored suit is made with a straight edge in the front rather than a traditional rounded one and fastened with horn buttons. “We wanted to do something that was classic enough but then had a subtle detail that could give us a unique introduction into the suiting world,” says Tunstall. It’s emblematic of the way Saturdays has gone big by making small changes since its founding. “We just want to continue to make sure [Saturdays] is constantly getting better and being fine-tuned,” he says. “I don't want us to kick our feet up and hit cruise control.”