LONDON – British omnichannel behemoth Next is on a line of consumption: Six months after taking a stake in high-street retailer Reiss, it is teaming up with Jack Wills’ co-founder Peter Williams to relaunch the menswear brand Aubin.
Ten years ago, Aubin acted as Aubin & Wills and was considered the older sibling of Jack Wills, serving classic workwear and tailored clothing to the masses of children who had grown up with Jack Wills hoodies, party dresses and preppy clothes. However, it was never as successful as Jack Wills, and was mothballed in 2012.
Next, which sells men’s and women’s clothing, household items and accessories under its own brand and operates an online marketplace that sells hundreds of third-party brands, said Monday that it has taken over a 33 percent stake in Aubin. Next will also manage Aubin’s distribution, offer it an end-to-end e-commerce fulfillment infrastructure, make use of its storage and IT, and act as the “launch pad” for Aubin’s online business in September.
The Williams and Aubin team will have control over the brand and product. Launched online at aubinandwills.com on September 7, Aubin will open a stand-alone store in Carnaby’s Newburgh Quarter in London on the same day.
Greg Roberts, formerly of Superdry and Jack Wills, will serve as CEO, and Rachel Silvester, an alumna of Jack Wills and Aubin & Wills, has been named creative director. Williams said the launch collection will consist of “reinvented classics, designed to last wear and tear and never go out of fashion.”
Williams, who severed ties with Jack Wills three years ago, said Aubin’s priority is to “occupy 24-7 about our target customer and produce the best possible product we can. We always work with specialized craftsmen to modernize classic wardrobe staples. ”
He called Next “the ideal partner after the last 18 months of turbulence in the industry. We are able to not only deliver products that are made to last — in both style and durability — but also ensure that our customers benefit from a truly world-class infrastructure. ”
Simon Wolfson, CEO of Next, said the company believes that “the combination of Aubin’s excellent design and brand-building skills combined with Next’s Total Platform end-to-end online infrastructure can quickly create an iconic UK brand with lasting appeal . “
Due to Wolfson’s firm hand and careful oversight of the company, Next has become one of the UK’s few high-street retailers that has managed to physically juggle digital to great effect.
Although Next has been around for decades, it has also adapted rapidly over time, becoming the UK’s distribution partner for Victoria’s Secret and Laura Ashley’s homes and making room for a number of beauty brands online and offline.
Based in Leicester, England, Next has 500 physical stores in the UK and Ireland and an online presence in more than 70 countries. The online platform sells Next products as well as 700 other fashion, home and beauty brands, including Reiss.
The relaunch of Aubin marks Williams ‘return to the main street after Jack Wills’ rise and fall. The brand was put into administration two years ago by then-owner Bluegem Capital Partners and bought for £ 12.8 million by Mike Ashley’s Sports Direct, which specializes in snapping ailing retailers.
The acquisition included approximately 100 Jack Wills stores in the UK and Ireland plus stock and the international Jack Wills brand.
Bluegem, the private equity firm that once owned Liberty, had bought Jack Wills in 2016, but failed to turn the once popular retailer around in what was becoming a difficult climate for high-street retail.
Williams left Jack Wills for good in 2018 after a disagreement with Bluegem.
Jack Wills was established in Salcombe, Devon in 1999 and quickly became known for British heritage-inspired classics with a contemporary twist.
Shortly after launch, the retailer began rolling out to university towns such as Oxford, Cambridge, Durham and St. John’s. Andrews. It developed into an international brand with more than 80 stores worldwide, including the UK, US, Asia and the Middle East. It opened lavish units in city centers, university towns, and resorts, hiring young, glamorous brand ambassadors to organize beach events, barbecues, and concerts, and preach the gospel of preppy, collegial fun.
At times, the brand also fell against British regulators, who described ad campaigns and catalog images as too racial and demanded that the brand pull them down.
At its height, Jack Wills offered men’s and women’s clothing, including bespoke clothing, hoodies, sweatpants, knitwear, intimates and accessories, but it fell out of fashion as young customers grew up and switched their preppy look to streetwear, branded sneakers and fasteners. fashion glamor from people like Zara, H&M and Mango.
Williams and his team so skillfully captured the time of the 2000s and beyond, and it remains to be seen if he can do it again and get the tech-savvy, sneaker- and street-loving generation back in tweeds and tailoring.