Individuality is Key: The Story Behind NYC Streetwear Brand Kith
e’re taught at an early age to say yes to all opportunities that come our way. But, sometimes there’s more power in saying no. Pinpointing a path to selective yes’s in life is what has made Kith founder, Ronnie Fieg, so successful, with individuality, being the key to his success.
Fieg’s Background to Success
Fieg’s journey to his multimillion-dollar streetwear brand began as a 13-year-old, working as a stock boy for David Z., a New York City-based footwear store founded by his second cousin.
Taking advantage of the opportunity, by the age of 25, he had moved his way up the ladder and became the company’s head buyer and special “make-ups” (or custom-designed sneakers) division manager in 2007. This began his foray into collaboration with other brands like the Asics Gel-Lyte III (dubbed the “252 pack”).
That shoe had a limited run, yet the design ended up on the cover of The Wall Street Journal and sold out in a day. This not only opened the door to more collaborations, but it showed Fieg that bigger doesn’t have to be the best or garner the most success. Future collabs with Asics included working with smaller brands, that he deemed great products in their own rights, not necessarily what came with larger streetwear labels.
In 2010, Fieg launched the streetwear brand “Kith,” (which is a Scottish term that loosely translates to “friends and family”) with partner Sam Ben-Avraham, owner of the clothing boutique Atrium. The first two brick-and-mortar stores opened the following year in Manhattan and Brooklyn, humbly located in the back of Atrium’s locations.
That didn’t last long though, as Kith’s success continued to grow due to the selective brand partnership choices that they made. People weren’t just buying into their brand though. They were also buying into their motto of “Just Us.” The tagline spoke to how they wanted people who worked at Kith, who walked into the shop, or who bought their gear, to feel. They wanted everyone to know that they were part of something special and part of a family. This was a key element of what Fieg and Avraham were building together.
Diversification of Kith
While Kith worked with brands like Adidas, Puma, Clarks, Red Wing, Timberland, and New Balance, Fieg also branched out into other lines, including jewelry (aptly named Kin); an in-house apparel line (which again, had a limited first run that sold out in one weekend and subsequent success with future limited runs); other capsule clothing collections that led to carrying apparel brands likeAcronym, Off-White, Don C,John Elliott + Cand many more.
Individuality of the Customer
Fieg credits his success thus far, to savvy consumers who wear his brand on the street, not following what other streetwear labels are doing and always trying to do something unique.
“The smarter the consumer gets, the more blurred the line gets between what streetwear is, what sportswear is, and what menswear is.” - Ronnie Fieg, Founder of Kith
The lines of where streetwear is heading, going into the future, are becoming blurred. It’s more about individuality and creating a unique look for yourself that could now include wearing any type of apparel. It’s not about following trends as much as it is about finding fashionable ways to be unique.
Know Who Your Customer Is — And Yourself
Fieg told Business of Fashion: “It’s very easy to blow this thing out of proportion and give people what they want, but it’s important to keep this brand special. I’m holding back heavy. I see that market (wholesale and other brand collaborations) has been saturated.”
Instead of saying yes to every project that comes his way, Fieg tries to stay credible by sticking to what he knows. He hasn’t expanded his physical stores beyond the two original ones, although the locations and space have changed.
His Brooklyn store underwent a $2 million renovation and expansion from 800 to 3,000 sq. ft. And, in homage to teens from every walk of life, this expanded space, became, Kith Treats; a cereal and ice cream bar that offers 24 different cereals and 25 toppings hoping to entice them into physical stores to stay for as long as they’d like even though a clothing purchase may not be affordable.
Looking Toward the Future
The cereal bar “builds upon previous entry-level, impulse-priced Kith items like socks, toothpicks, and chocolate bars,” according to Business of Fashion,” and everything down to the box treats leave-in, are Kith branded in an array of collaborative logos, including Nike Tennis and Andre Agassi.
Collect four and leave with a Kith x Nike tennis ball, a great marketing technique that shows Fieg is always thinking of ways to keep the brand at the forefront of consumers’ minds, no matter what size the purchase. Future plans for Fieg include a children and women’s clothing line, which will have a physical location in SoHo, a nod to every part of the family.