Five Questions With Matix President Brian Dunlap: ‘Right-Sizing’ The Brand & Repositioning Matix For Success
In May, Matix hosted a house warming party for its new space at Westlife Distribution headquarters in Compton. The celebration also marked the almost- one-year anniversary since the brand, which has deep roots in skate, was acquired by parent company Westlife, which also owns 686. The entire company just moved into the new building about three months earlier, and was eager to show off the new digs, which reflect bright, airy spaces, with a nod to natural materials like exposed cement floors, solid oak tables, and elevated ceilings with skylights.
The tour didn’t end on the inside of the expansive, two story building. We took a stroll out to the campus’ backyard, where we were introduced to the Matix Mobile Workshop, a freshly revamped mini tailor shop on wheels, designed by Matix President Brian Dunlap and crew and created to educate the masses--at both a consumer and retail level--about thse Matix custom men’s apparel program.
The Workshop was unveiled at Agenda Long Beach, and served as the brand’s booth, with actual tailors on site to customize Matix pants on the spot. Since the end of July, the mobile workshop has been on a retail tour starting along the West Coast and eventually moving throughout the country. TransWorld Business was lucky enough to sit in on one of Matix’s local stops, at Del Mar’s Sun Diego store and retail headquarters in Vista, to get a first hand look at how the program works and why it’s a critical piece of the brand’s strategy in giving back to its core constituents. Read the full story on page two.
During our recent tour at Matix HQ’s, we had a chance to sit down with President Brian Dunlap to hear his thoughts on changes at both the operational and marketing level since being acquired by Westlife. Read on for Dunlap’s take on which categories the brand is honing in on, and how he is working to “right-size” the company to position Matix for success.
How has Matix evolved and grown since it was acquired by Westlife?
Over the last year since we got acquired by Westlife, we have really dove into what the brand is and whom it speaks to. It’s crazy to think it was July 1, 2012 that we transitioned over-- as they say, time flies when you’re having fun. I really wanted to make sure Matix holds a strong segment in the industry and in order to do that felt we needed to create a message consumers and retailers could get on board with. In January this year we launched our "From the Ground Up" campaign, which was our stepping off point of this new look and feel. It really embodied where we sit today and what we are all about.
We have seen some major internal growth from the robust infrastructure of Westlife from an ordering and logistics standpoint. We now run all of our own warehousing and have become much more efficient with getting product in and out the door on our deliver dates. This is a huge piece of the puzzle that a lot of people don't think too much about but is equally as important as the marketing and sales component.
What new projects for next season are you most excited about and why?
We continue to be very bottoms focused. This has always been a strong point of the brand and we are striving to own this category. We have franchised our popular "Gripper" fit into multiple fabric options in both pants and shorts.
Print stories are very relevant which you will see in our Desert Aloha story that is our single fingered salute to the once a year vacationer and welcomes everyone to an endless vacation. It is a fun mix of colors with NASA and pinup girl-inspired art.
We also did a very in depth collaboration with Tyler Hatzikian from Tyler Surfboards, which includes boardshorts, printed goods, and headwear. Tyler is a South Bay veteran with a rich history in surfing, hotrods, and is a true master craftsman.
How did the idea for the Matix Workshop come about, how long have you been building it out?
We launched the "Workshop at Agenda" in Long Beach last year which was showcased us making promo for upcoming shows as well as building one off Agenda jeans for their 10 year anniversary. It went over really well and decided that it would be a great concept to take on the road and tell our story direct to consumers at our retailer's stores.
It took us about 4 months to build it from top to bottom and get it everything running the way we envisioned it.
What are some of your initial plans for the first few stops of the tour with the Workshop?
It's going to hit the road on August 1st. There are already plans for it to be Active, Sun Diego, Spyder, HSS, Hanger 94, Vanguard and some other regional events. We are going to hit the ground running so keep your eyes peeled for updates on Insta @matixclothing on where we will be next.
Why do you think reaching out and working with core retailers at this level is important?
They are the backbone of the industry and what built Matix to what it is today. The distribution model has changed over the last 5 years and I think it is important for all brands to determine who their partners are (core or not) and build a plan with them. The larger brands are so over distributed there is nothing special when it gets to a core level aside from extravagant surf trips for the shop owners and a headache of returning all the product that did not sell. We are not trying to build a consignment type business but build good smart business that both sides (retailer and manufacture) can make money on.
Talk about some of the changes that have happened at a brand level over the years, and how this has made Matix stronger.
The brand has expanded and contracted with the sales volume. When things became a little bumpy in ’08 we had to determine where our internal resources would best spent on the design, development and product side of things. That coupled with cash flow starts to dictate the sku's and categories you can produce for future seasons. A few years back we offered a junior's line, youth line, accessories line as well had a very robust athlete roster. Now from the product side we are very focused on men's bottoms, cut n sew, printed goods, and headwear and have a very refined roster of ambassadors. In simple terms we have "right sized" the inner workings of the brand to the scale of today's business.
Photos: Becca Votrian
Case Study: Matix Workshop
It’s no secret that as brands increasingly look for ways to hone their focus and support the industry, that they’ve turned their attention to partnering more closely with their core retail base for continued growth and success.
Matix is one brand that has crafted its own take on that model, providing brand awareness and educational tools for many of its retailers through the Matix Workshop, a mobile tailor shop that is currently on tour throughout Southern California. Bringing its brand onsite at various shop locations allows the Matix workshop to form personal relationships with the retail staff, giving them educational tutorials on the apparel, their custom tailor program, and key product details for in-store sales.
The consumer-facing model is also designed to boost brand awareness and loyalty, giving each person who purchases a pair of Matix denim or bottoms an opportunity to have them custom tailored on location inside the Matix Workshop, which essentially acts as a ” multi-platform direct marketing showroom” on wheels, allowing customers to take home a custom, one-off label package.
Most recently, Matix rolled into the new Del Mar Sun Diego at Flower Hill Promenade to test out its Workshop in one of SoCal’s more prominent beach towns. For Sun Diego’s VP of Operations and Marketing Pete Censoplano, the platform makes sense as both an internal, in-store resource for employees, as well as a viable model to drive traffic through the door and create a loyal customer base.
“These type of events definitely move the needle,” says Censoplano. “There are some events that are just mainly more for marketing, but these type of events are actually tailored toward increasing sales, so it’s a win-win. It’s great for marketing as well, because it’s exciting and interactive, and its creating more excitement at retail, which is a place where we feel brands should be focusing, since that’s the frontlines. Today, brands can’t be detached from that and think their product is going to sell.”
The Sun Diego event will definitely serve as a model for the Matix crew to continue to build off, and initial reports from the weekend-long in-store experience were positive: “The customers that did purchase apparel and get it customized, loved it,” says Censoplano, who added he hopes to see the program grow. Sun Diego is keeping the lines of communication open with Matix, and are brainstorming plans for hosting smaller in-store events at locations that can’t accommodate the Matix trailer on site.
Matix is making a big push on its mobile workshop tour and hitting key So Cal retailers throughout the holiday season. Sstay tuned for future announcements of where the Matix Workshop is headed next.