Brothers Jamie and Lyndon Cormack have put a lot of stock in paying homage to their roots. The two founded up-and-coming bag company Herschel, which is named after a small town in Canada where the brothers’ great grandparents settled after making the trek from Scotland during the early 1900s. More than a century later, the Cormack brothers are carrying on the craftsman tradition started by their ancestors, creating bags with a modern spin on vintage fashion. The product, which is turning heads at retail and carries over well from streetwear connoisseurs into the action sports arena, continues to be picked up by many shops in the surf and skate markets. We sat down with Jamie to find out more about how they got started, the brand’s recent growth, and how the brothers plan to stay ahead of the curve competing in the backpack category.
What’s the creative inspiration behind the brand, how and when did it get off the ground and how have you been maintaining the amount of growth the brand is seeing lately?
We felt that bags in general were getting overly technical and all had a similar look. Realizing that there was a hole in the market we approached it with a fresh take on the category, delivering trend-right, timeless products with fine regard to detail. This point of difference allowed us to get noticed and shops were excited to support something new. We looked back to the past for inspiration, while updating the fit, feel, and function of the products for modern lifestyle. Adding new like minded individuals to our team is helping us progress, and great relationships with our manufacturing partners has allowed us to grow as quickly and consistently as we have.
As brothers working together on a large-scale business project, what are the biggest challenges?
Being related, we know each others’strengths and weaknesses and we use that to our advantage. Disagreements are nothing more than being honest with each other and this helps in the sense that nothing personal is taken into account. At the end of the day, the job gets done.
What do you see as the biggest opportunities within the market right now?
We see retailers searching to grow in categories beyond apparel and footwear, we offer a diverse and complete range of accessories. Our success has proven that if we bring out well designed accessories in a variety of categories, the end consumer is buying them.
Check out Herschel’s most recent lookbook:
What has been your strategy behind marketing the brand?
We have assembled great relationships with industry leading fashion and lifestyle publications. Continuing to produce top quality assets has allowed us to maintain our strong relationship with popular blogs and media outlets.
Do you plan to continue with the same strategy?
Yes, we plan on continuing this style of marketing as well as investing with retailers in merchandising and fixtures.
What do you think is the biggest milestone for the brand so far and when did you start to receive a good amount of positive feedback from retailers?
International success is something we are proud of. On top of our success in North America we are distributing to almost 40 different countries already. Timing was a huge part to our success, coming onto the scene with a refreshing point of difference which was not present in the market at the time. Retailers have been very pleased with the sell through and our on-time deliveries.
What does your distribution look like at the moment? Will you be expanding that, or staying about the same? What is your target market?
We have been embraced by the better ASR accounts and also the lifestyle boutiques. Both channels have adopted our brand and sales have been exceptional as a result. We have a great balance between the independent as well as the multi-door stores and we plan on continuing this healthy mix.
Where do you hope Herschel is in the next six to twelve months and how do you plan on getting the brand there?
Our style is progressing and we are now creating products such as computer sleeves and wallets, alongside our backpacks, totes, and travel products. Early tests in key retailers showing promise for success in these categories. We are looking forward to the fall/back-to-school 2012 season with high hopes for our expanded range of products and styles.
How do you see the future of retail evolving and what strategies are you deploying in order to keep Herschel ahead of the curve in the arena?
We feel that there will be a continued consolidation and a higher presence of multi-store chains. This will continue to put pressure on independent stores to deliver quality products while maintaining an innovative focus with strong merchandising standards. Holding onto the independent spirit that our brand offers is going to continue to be very important. It will be important for independent stores to have buyers who have a responsive attitude towards trends as this will help them compete with both chains and also vertical retailers. Enforcing our strong point of difference in the market is needed in order for us to stay ahead, and we will continue to hold true to our Herschel values, delivering trend-right, timeless products with fine regard for detail.