Australian-born brand Insight is rolling up on its 20-year anniversary. Through its unique spin on apparel within the action sports and fashion markets, the brand has continued strengthening its presence in the US over the past few years. In honor of its two-decade anniversary, TransWorld Business took a more in-depth look at how the brand’s story has unfolded.
Since setting up shop at its flagship location in Venice, California back in 2006, Insight has steadily expanded its roots to reach a broader footprint on US soil. In 2011, the brand saw a record-breaking sales figure globally with its “Untitled” photographic T-shirt series, moving 150,000 units off shelves at retail stores over a 12-month period-- just one of many milestones the brand is celebrating in 2012, according to Skye McRae, Insight’s global chief marketing officer.
“What I find most inspiring about Insight is our authenticity,” says McRae. “We have always stayed true to who we are; never bending under industry pressure or restraining our out-of-the-box creative.”
McRae, who has been with the brand for nearly a decade, considers herself fortunate to have witnessed Insight’s growth from its infancy to today, as it continues to flourish into a global brand. She attributes the growth to the way the brand has been able to “build a community of unique surfers, skaters, artists, musicians, and creative minds who lead the Insight aesthetic and lifestyle.”
In an interview with TransWorld Business, McRae shares more about what the brand is doing to commemorate its 20-year anniversary, plans to stay true to the brand’s original creed, and tailoring its retail strategy to different regions throughout the world by working closely with its retail partners.
How is the brand ringing in its 20th anniversary--any special collaboration product, exclusive events at the flagship locations, et cetera, we should know about?
We’re planning our “almost legal” global “birthday” celebrations in yet to be disclosed locations. You’ll be the first to be invited. Get your passport ready for a local Venice one, Oz, and Bali trek.
The brand has its roots in Australia, but also has expanded into HQs in the US and Europe. When did this happen, and how long has the brand been found at US and European retail, respectively?
In 2006, we opened up our European operations in Biarritz, France. Then, went on to set up shop in Venice Beach, California. Fast forward [and] in mid-2009, we partnered up with Black Box Distribution to oversee the US market.
The initial opening of the offices in EU and USA, came as an afterthought after selling direct from Bleach in Australia--EU for roughly four years and USA for two. Opening the offices has definitely given us the opportunity to interact with the direct community and have a local presence in both territories.
Can you explain the role that Bleach plays for Insight?
Bleach is the company which owns Insight globally. The global HQ for Insight is based in Sydney, Australia, with a satellite office in Biarritz, France.
Bleach is the distributor for Insight in Australia and parts of Europe (France, Spain, Portugal, UK, Switzerland, Austria and Germany).
Under Bleach, Insight handles all aspects of the brand’s design, marketing, and sales as well as back office. Black Box is the distributor/licensee for Insight in the USA.
Tell us more about the other two brands under the Bleach umbrella, and how Insight fits with them.
Bleach also owns ksubi, a luxury denim brand, and Something Else, a contemporary women’s brand.
The beauty of Bleach as a business is that it is a true brand house in the fact that it owns three uniquely different brands, each of which caters to a different part of the market. This allows us to talk to various consumer markets, create specific products for these, and furthermore grow strong relationships with a large variety of retailers.
Insight has tripled its SMU business around the world by working with key retailers to develop specific styles for each store’s own demographic. Did you do this through collaborations or just by opening the lines of communication to find out what colorways and SKUs were best sellers at particular locations?
We’ve worked very closely with key retailers since day one. It’s allowed us to continue to grow and nurture our partnerships. Working in-conjunction with and analyzing the product assortment and ensuring what we develop compliments their demo. We’ve continued with the same MO. Not only has this given us the ability to gain traction into the market, but its allowed us to do business to tier our distribution.
Follow the jump for more on E-commerce, Insight’s Collectables line, and Jamaican dance crazes…
When did the Collectables product category launch, what it’s all about, and why you think it’s been so successful?
Last 2011, we launched Insight Collectables in the southern hemisphere. Each candle is ultimately a culmination of what goes on in our Creative Marketing brain, Steve Gorrow’s head. Initially, they started off as a very special SMU request for an Australian key retailer for the Christmas/Holiday season. The second they hit the retail floor, we witnessed a huge response with a 100% sell thru in less then two weeks. Since then, we’ve expanded and created a new Collectables category, offering two global collections annually. The collections are based around what we do--being creative.
At present, the Collectables are a candles collection, and in the very near future we will be offering miniature figurines and more interior art. I think the reason its been such a successful category is that consumers crave creative, classic, and timeless. Collectables gives them just that.
The short film you recently released,”Split Your Jeans,” is an interesting look at a dance craze in Jamaica. How did Insight hear about this and decide to film this?
We’ve been sponsoring the Jamaican Surf Association for quite some time. They’re a part of the Insight family. Jamaica has held a very special place in our hearts. A few months back, we wanted to make a video short to promote and support our denim collection. We enlisted our good friend and multi-talented Mike Piscitelli, who shot our award winning UNTITLED campaign in Jamaica early last year, and George Gorrow, one of Insight’s original creatives, to produce a short film to capture what they saw whilst there. A few weeks later, this was the result! The video showcases the very core of our brand--fun and irreverence. Free speech, free dance.
You’re relaunching your global E-commerce platform this month--what does that entail, what has been updated, and what are you most excited about with this initiative?
We’re excited to launch a platform to not only display our whole collection in its entirety, but have it available for purchase.
We’ll be able to showcase and support the styles we’re really feeling, that possibly might not not have been picked up by our retailers, but can offer a great visual point-of-difference. Coupled with the fact that we’re looking forward to providing good old fashioned service direct to our community.
How important is E-commerce to the brand strategy, and why?
Very! Along with it being a wonderful revenue driver for us, it gives us the opportunity to showcase our entire collection and provide consumers a full visual experience. Our design team’s favorites, usually the most directional pieces, will then be guaranteed to be accessible for our fashion-forward consumers.
Our E-Commerce platform will also act as a testing ground and enable us to conduct case studies with our consumers for future collections.
What goals does the brand have moving into 2013 and beyond?
Insight is very focused on ensuring that we keep our brand and product mix exciting and relevant for each key international market. This means, we are working closely with our sales reps and distributors; developing custom targeted initiatives by continuing our market research through global trips.
In addition, we are focused on developing a strong global retail footprint opening up key Insight flagships around the world. Much like what we’re already doing in our Venice concept space, bringing Insight’s voice to the forefront. A creative space to showcase both the collections and a platform to show the brand in its entirety, essentially an event location for our Garage Art program. Sharing Insight’s artists, bands, visuals, and good vibes with the public.
Driving our online platform is next on our list. We are heading it from a marketing point of view, developing more content and cultivating a strong online community around the brand.
What do you see as the biggest challenges in the US market versus internationally for Insight? What about opportunities?
We’ve witnessed that what is hot in one territory, may or may not be trending in others. Hence, we are dedicated and always working with our partners to ensure we aren’t too far off the beaten path.
We’ve been really fortunate to have great partners in the USA who really understand the brand and are a sounding board to tone or tweak where needed. Working with the likes of say Urban Outfitters in the US has also been great, they’re very similar to one of our biggest retail partners in Australia, General Pants Co. These are two great examples of retailers that totally get what we are trying to do and say--so I guess, a great opportunity is that – working with like-minded people and retailers around the globe that share a similar creative vision and want to change the industry.