James Holder is the Founder, Brand and Design Director of Superdry, one of the most successful lifestyle brands that is favoured by millions across the world. Now available on ZALORA we speak to the man behind the brand and learn how Julian Dunkerton (Founder, Product and Brand Director) and himself made their idea into a reality.
James it seems has always been an entrepreneur, by the age of 19 he had created the British clothing label Bench, which was the defining street wear brand of a generation. In 1999, he co-founded Soho Coffee Company alongside Julian Dunkerton, his good friend and co-founder of Superdry. Instinctively recognising a gap in the market, James and Julian travelled to Japan in 2003 where Julian’s passion for vintage Americana and James’ love of Japanese imagery merged. Combined with their passion for attention to detail and a shared love of British tailored fits — Superdry was born.
In 2005, James designed the iconic Osaka 6 t-shirt, admired by sports hero David Beckham. Subsequently, the brand soon became a celebrity favourite, with Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio seen wearing the collection. The stellar growth continued and by 2010 key Superdry styles, including the iconic Windcheater had broken the 1 million sales mark. As the brand grew, James turned his creative eye and extraordinary energy to new areas, including the development of womenswear and denim along with targeted collaborations with defining British brands and designers.
ZALORA speaks to James about his vision, ethos and plans in continuing to grow Superdry as a global lifestyle brand.
1. Can you quickly describe Superdry to our readers who aren’t so familiar with the brand?
Superdry is a global lifestyle brand aimed at men and women of all ages who like to look and feel great in what they wear. We are British and proud of our roots, we focus on high-quality products that fuse vintage Americana and Japanese-inspired graphics with British tailoring.
2. What makes Superdry different to other high street everyday wear brands?
We are driven by detail and quality. If you go into a Superdry store, it seems that we have up to 200 sub-brands within the brand. You can find an artisan leather jacket next to some brightly logoed flip-flops. We’re always changing, and we’re certainly not appealing to one demographic. Every single piece has integrity, all made with premium fabrics but still at an affordable price point and that’s what makes us different to other brands.
3. How did you first get involved with Superdry?
Well, we started the brand 11 years ago – myself and my business partner Julian Dunkerton. I had a previous clothing company called Bench and Julian had a retail venture called Cult Clothing. We saw a huge gap in the British men’s fashion market and that’s where it all began. The three ingredients at the start was firstly Julian’s love of American vintage clothing and the approach to vintage American cotton. The second was my love of Japanese imagery and attention to detail, and the third was a shared love for British tailoring, hence the slim fits you see with many of our designs. At the time nobody had that winning combination, we ended up with this unique looking product combined with a perfect price point.
4. Can you describe your day-to-day role?
From day one Julian and I have been heavily involved in the day-to-day running of the business, and we always will be. My life is a constant juggle of roles and job responsibilities: one moment I may be looking at fixtures for a new store, then overseeing detail for an event, attending board meetings, approving new fragrances, brainstorming new designs, accessory ranges, detail on a new zip or perhaps choosing the perfect leather for watch straps… it is utterly diverse.
5. What is the favourite part of your job?
I love the people I work with; they are the soul of the brand, and many have been with us from the beginning. I believe you have to have a like-minded team around you to deliver great results. Everyone at Superdry is 100% passionate for the brand, and mine and Julian’s love for Superdry runs through the veins of everyone we work with. Progression is important to me — I never sit still! I always push the boundaries, looking for new ideas, detail, fabrics, colours and washes. Then there’s every detail around the product, from the shop fit to the carrier bags, it’s all in the detail. As a brand we are always striving for the next thing, offering our customers the best product and designs season to season.
6. Superdry recently collaborated with Idris Elba, how important do you think collaborations are to a brand?
I think it means different things for different brands. For us, it’s never been important or something we have pursued. In the 11 years of Superdry, we have never collaborated with a celebrity, until Idris Elba. As soon as we met Idris, there was a natural bond, Idris epitomises everything the Superdry brand stands for… British, stylish, relaxed with global appeal. We have both worked really hard to get to where we are and share a mutual respect for our British roots and commitment to delivering 100% in everything we do.
7. What does 2016 hold for Superdry?
At the moment we are about to launch our SS16 collection and it’s one of our best yet! We are also launching a Men’s Sport Collection, something that’s brand new for us. The range looks incredible and features high performance fabrics in with great new colours and styles. Launching our second season with Idris Elba in May brings subtle branding for the slightly older sophisticated male customer, our ski range Superdry Snow is epic and selling really well, new women’s denim hits the shop floor next month…as I say we are always pushing boundaries in every possible category.
8. What are your wardrobe essentials?
We produce high-quality leathers each season and I have a few styles that I wear regularly. An outfit choice would be a suede or leather bomber with skinny jeans, Chelsea boots, and a logo T-shirt or a pure merino crew neck.