For its first design collaboration, Marine Layer has teamed up with Lost & Found, a platform that maintains art and photography from the past, to launch the ML + L&F 1976 Capsule, according to an email sent to Retail Dive.
Lost & Found founder Doug Walker in 2007 bought three file boxes at the Pasadena Flea Market in California that turned out to be filled with more than 30,000 negatives. Once developed, he found they’d captured "the essence of beach and surfing culture in the 1970s," and has spent the last decade tracking down and interviewing the original photographers, according to the statement.
A book of the photos and limited edition prints are available for sale, including at Marine Layer. Walker worked with the apparel retailer's designers to create a collection called "Summer Rewind," that embodies the golden age of surfing found in these photos.
Marine Layer was inspired by the likes of Bonobos to sell well-made apparel online. But its first pop-up, a venture intended to help the retailer collect email addresses, showed the founders the appeal of brick and mortar. The company now runs 34 stores across the U.S. and says they do well in all geographies, regardless of proximity to water. Real estate selection entails finding spots on "very cool streets," according to Marine Layer co-founder and COO Adam Lynch.
"The was just something that clicked in a way that didn't online," Lynch told Retail Dive during a visit last month to the company's Bleecker Street store in New York, which itself has done over $1 million in sales and is one of the brand's top performing locations. "The interaction with our customers was intangible."
Marine Layer, which opened 10 stores in 2015 and another 10-12 stores each year since, plans 10-15 new stores a year "for the next few years" — 40% of its sales are from e-commerce and 60% come from stores. The retailer is personally funded and has been profitable from the first month, thanks to what Lynch said is discipline born from the fact that it can't depend on large investment infusions from venture capitalists. The brand is amenable to outside retail partnerships and would consider entering a mall, though "that would depend on the mall," he said. "We're after a good retail experience. If it happens to be in a mall, we're open."
To cut down on costs and extra inventory, Marine Layer keeps the supply chain tight, introducing new product monthly and seasonal capsules for spring/summer and fall/winter. The company's designers often take inspiration from vintage styles, including its bestselling "Cord Trench" modeled after a coat worn by a stylish Frenchwoman walking down the street — a move reminiscent of J. Peterman and that brand's iconic catalog.
Now the company has forged a capsule collection based on the 1970s surf vibe in Walker's found images. The collection includes shirts, T-shirts, shorts and swimwear. "When I came across Doug’s story, it just clicked," Marine Layer co-founder and CEO Michael Natenshon said in the video accompanying the collection. "Looking through his book and all these awesome photographs it just was like — that’s why we’re making clothes."