Urban Outfitters is no stranger to paradigm shifts within menswear, which is a fancy way of saying that they have a reputation of staying on top of trends in a specific marketplace. Not too long ago you could get an ironic neon tee for every day of the week. As the preppy/Americana boom has taken hold over the past few years UO has tailored their offerings as such. For the most part all mass retail is reactive as oppose to proactive so this should come as no surprise to anyone who even has a slight interest in all this stuff. But what interests me the most is that instead of simply selling low quality cookie cutter ripoffs, UO has slowly built up a stock of impressive high quality brands specializing in the above mentioned aesthetic. What started with Quoddy and Billykirk has now ballooned to a selection that includes Monitaly and various other brands one might not expect to see at such a retail location. I don't think anyone is expecting Urban Outfitters to become Context or Blackbird overnight, but could we be looking at a Opening Ceremony-esque evolution? Meaning, a store that specializes in trends, but focuses on up and coming brands known for their quality. Does quality only exist in this case because, well, the idea of quality (products with "stories" and heritage) is pretty damn trendy right now? In five years will UO's products look completely different then they do today? In the business of making money can a large chain simultaneously run with a respectable image? Or rebuild their image? Should we commend these guys for bringing smaller brands to a new customer? Sound off if you feel so inclined.
A selection of brands currently offered at Urban Outfitters:
-Mark McNairy New Amsterdam
-Rogues Gallery/Never Sleep
-Billykirk/The Brothers Bray
-Steven Alan/Lark & Wolff
[Editor's Note: I think a big part of this discussion is UO's partnership with brands to create less expensive diffusion lines (i.e. Never Sleep, The Brothers Bray and Lark & Wolff).]