Wet Seal, once a solid $600 million apparel company grounded in a breezy West Coast style, has faltered badly in recent years, and is only just now emerging from bankruptcy with a reprieve from its liquidity issues.
The big challenge facing new CEO Melanie Cox is how to return Wet Seal to its former glory.
Cox said the brand would shift its focus to a slightly older demographic, while making its style both "fashion forward" and "California casual," according to an interview with Bloomberg.
Wet Seal could soon join Delia’s as a once-popular teen clothing retailer that hasn’t been able to overcome teenagers' reluctance in recent years to spend much on apparel. The retailer has struggled to compete online, and last year the holidays didn’t give the retailer much-needed relief.
Now, new CEO Melanie Cox wants to bring meaning back to the brand, something it sorely needs in order to move beyond its doldrums. That meaning, according to Cox, is found in the California vibe that won over its fans more than 10 years ago, rather than the parade of styles found at fast-fashion retailers like H&M or Forever 21.
With so many teen-focused apparel retailers aiming for a similar demographic, a move to a more definitive look could work if teenagers like that look.
The plan is to provide clothing more likely to appeal to older young people — older teens and college kids — who are more likely to have a fashion sense of their own, less dictated by fast-fashion trends, and who also are more likely to have more money to spend.
"We are absolutely going to be aggressively fashion-forward, but in a lane that is California casual," Cox told Bloomberg. "Think of her and what she wears during the week, a senior in high school or a college girl, and what she wears when she's on the schlumpy Saturday circuit to the coffee shop in sweats and pajama bottoms. Understand that lifestyle, then tailor the mix and voice to that."