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After a rocky start, which had Andreas Melbostad replace Tim Gardner at the creative helm at launch time in 2004, and several seasons in which the brand has been largely under the fashion radar, at least Stateside, Phi executives now feel the time is right to bring their message to a wider audience. This fall, the brand will unveil its first print ad campaign, shot by Steven Meisel. The company also is adding pre-collections with the first resort line unveiled this week (for more on the collection, see page 16), and has plans to open a freestanding boutique in Los Angeles.
Phi launched in 2004 with a freestanding retail store on Greene Street in New York and a few specialty store wholesale accounts, including Colette in Paris. In four years, distribution of the line, which is designed by creative director Melbostad, has grown to about 35 stores worldwide.
Where some would have expected the Dell fortune (as in Dell computers) to bankroll a megamarketing and retail push following the opening of the store, chief executive officer Julia Hansen said the measured growth was a deliberate move. "We felt it was very important that integrity on the creative and strategic side lead the way, as opposed to just throwing money at it," she said. "It was important to grow this brand by creating great product.
"We now got to a point where the three of us [Dell, Hansen and Melbostad] are absolutely aligned," she continued. "We see the company and the brand vision as one, and that is now driving some of the success on the retail and wholesale side."
While Hansen declined to disclose sales volume, she said that Eastern Europe accounts for 30 percent of revenues, Western Europe for 20 percent, Asia for 30 percent (mainly from Japan), Canada 10 percent and the U.S. 10 percent. The surprisingly small American business has triggered the decision to add pre-collections, which would open the distribution to larger department stores that typically require multiple deliveries.
"Over the next three years, we will be very focused on addressing the U.S. market," Hansen said. "It's a big business and brand opportunity for us."