As far as Kiwi fashion retailers go there’s the good, the bad and then there’s I Love Ugly – right out there in a league of its own.
The menswear brand stands apart in quietly, classily, bravely paving the way for best practice in fashion retail, preceded perhaps only by its mentor Karen Walker.
Founded by Valentin Ozich in 2008, the brand started as an “ambiguous, mysterious name” he used for a magazine and then a t-shirt brand.
Fast-forward seven years and I Love Ugly now has six flagship stores, two of them international. It exceeded $7.5m in sales in 2014, and has a goal to hit $20m in sales this year and $100m annual revenue within the next four years.
“I’m one never to be satisfied, it’s a bit of a blessing and a curse,” Ozich laughs.
Last year the retailer was one of the first Kiwi clothing brands to dare open its own retail store in Los Angeles; “the big boys league in street wear”.
Interestingly, I Love Ugly is one of the only fashion retailers to feature on the 2014 Deloitte Fast 50, among a sea of tech companies.
So what’s the brand doing that other clothing retailers aren’t?
“I think we’re probably just doing everything that others aren’t,” Ozich answers, frankly.
“It all comes down to culture. I always tell everybody culture eats strategy for lunch. If you have a culture that expects nothing less than perfection and being number one, that whole thing is going to resonate throughout the business.”
Pair that with a strategy that aims to be as beautiful and status-drenched as Louis Vuitton, at an affordable price point, and you’ve got a winning combo.
Ozich feels a lot of other retailers lack the emphasis on brand equity that is so vital to him.
“There are a lot of people who aren’t selling a lifestyle, aren’t selling an illusion or an emotion and that’s one of the most important things,” he says.
The brand also has a mean digital team.
Ozich expects their online sales to double in the next year, with the company securing 80 stockists in high-end department stores all over the world.
“Every account has marketing for I Love Ugly, so straight away we’re gonna be exposed to millions more people which of course leads to online sales”
Listening to Ozich makes retail sound easy. Unique product, a ripe market, smart tech and a beautiful story.
“Premium street wear has just boomed, early bird gets the worm, and we spotted that. And now we’re just going to execute that and be the market leaders,” Ozich explains.
This story was originally published in NZRetail magazine issue 736, March 2015.