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Bobby Hundreds tells us all about the latest season of The Hundreds Public Label (which has undergone a re-working of the pricing structure) and gives us an exclusive first peek into their Fall/Winter 2011 collection which is out at The Hundreds stores this Friday.

What are the main differences between The Hundreds mainline and TH Public Label?

The Hundreds Public Label was introduced in 2006 as a distinct offering from the traditional The Hundreds range. We wanted to exhibit a design-direct menswear line that was minimal on heavy branding and graphic placement, with more attention to quality fabrications, production details, and tight numbers.

The point is to give our more fashion-forward supporters, the ones who dress appropriately along modern menswear trends, something beyond traditional Streetwear: unique pieces that are produced in very low quantities.

Plus, we conceptualize and design The Hundreds’ range about a year-and-a-half in advance of retail delivery. So even though we’re doing our best to originate and innovate, by the time a lot our clothing hits the floor, it’s old to us and much of the aforementioned knowledgable customer.

Public Label is conceptualized and designed about 6 months in advance and we can do this because we don’t wholesale the line. We cut out the year-long sales and marketing push and go direct to our retail shops. Basically, Public Label is a more reliable indicator of what we’re currently feeling on the design side, and a foreshadowing segue into the following year’s line.

See the full lookbook and read our full conversation after the click.

What can you tell us about the re-worked pricing structure of the line?

Because of the extremely limited numbers (at times, 100 pieces or less), we have hefty costs in making this stuff. In the past, we wholesaled Public Label to top-tier accounts so we had to work in the keystoned prices. As many of Public Label’s buyers may remember, the retail prices ended up being exorbitant – unfortunately a lot of people who appreciated the design and low quantities of the product simply couldn’t afford to buy it. We weren’t boosting the prices for no reason, we were just taxed that much making Public Label.

The name and concept of the line is “Public Label.” It’s a response to private-label goods, but also meant to be for everyone. All of our supporters should have a shot at Public Label, not just the rich ones. So how could we sensibly price this line without being forced to make huge quantities of it, and still keep it limited, special, and exclusive?

The answer is in our own retail front. The Hundreds has an advantage over many other brands who might attempt a similar thing because of our 4 physical flagship stores. In a way, we have our own distribution chain – our own accounts to sell to directly. We cut out the middleman, we can keep the prices and numbers low. Mission accomplished. From this point forward, Public Label is exclusively distributed through The Hundreds LA, SF, NY, and Santa Monica. We’re selling Public Label at ridiculously affordable prices…A Letterman’s jacket that would have hit the customer for more than $400 USD in the past is now under $200. Denim was $200 before and now we’re able to put it on the rack for $84. The new Public Label fleece and Henleys are in the $60-$70 range. The crazy part is that now, most of Public Label is far cheaper than what’s in the regular The Hundreds line. AND it’s much more limited.

Walk us through some highlights of new Fall/Winter Public Label collection.

I think our collective favorite piece here at The Hundreds has got to be the J5 jacket. Constructed of a Japanese cotton canvas, it features all-over Italian camouflage with a light waterproof coating. The W5 denim woven is another one of my picks, milled under Japanese Kurabo Mills, as are the ND4 skinny chinos.

What have been the biggest challenges you’ve faced with PL over the years?

Generally, the biggest challenge has been convincing our average The Hundreds customer to think a little differently when it comes to more design-oriented, fashion-centric menswear from us. They’re used to, and solely looking for, a particular Streetwear from The Hundreds and aren’t necessarily open to trying something new. So it takes some convincing, but once they’re in it, they get it.

Then on the flipside there are those more “sophisticated” customers out there who trip out that The Hundreds is making clothing that aligns with their tastes, but they can’t get over the hurdle that it comes from a Streetwear brand like us. But again, it takes some convincing and once they’re in it, they accept it.

A caveat here. I don’t like referring to Public Label as “higher” or “older” or even “dressing better,” as I’ve seen it thrown around amongst all the Americana/trad discussion. In my eyes, that’s a pretty snobbish and arrogant thing to say… I think t-shirts and sneakers can be just as “high,” “old,” and “better” than a $700 cardigan knit by Native Americans on a steamboat. Just because you can see it on an old white man with a beard and not a young inner-city skate kid of color, does NOT make it cooler There is The Hundreds and there is The Hundreds Public Label. One customer may be more skate and Street-minded while the other is immersed in what’s going on in Paris’ runways, but The Hundreds caters to them all. Our only goal is that both sides have access to all.

Wildest label you’ve seen in public…

Sometimes Ben wears salmon-colored Polo shirts.

Interview: Pete Williams

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