Wolf & Badger’s Co-Founder Talks US Expansion and First NYC Store

by Kristen Heinzinger

With a steady cult following in the UK and a slew of celeb devotees (Evan Rachel Wood and Gigi Hadid, for instance), Wolf & Badger has its sights set on the US market. The concession shop has seized a 2,500-square-foot retail space on Grand Street in Soho, where it carries emerging brands on a three-month rotating basis. What sets it apart from other consignment-type shops: W&B doesn’t follow a wholesale model and it takes commission from items it sells online or in stores, charging brands a monthly membership fee to participate. Co-founder and creative director Henry Graham breaks down the vision.

Where did the idea for Wolf & Badger begin?
My brother George and I wanted to create an easy way for largely undiscovered fashion and design brands to easily sell direct to consumers. We realized there was nothing available in the market that provided this in a high quality, luxury retail environment. So, we went about creating it in our first store in London’s Notting Hill.

Do you both have backgrounds in fashion?
Neither of us had fashion backgrounds, but it definitely runs in the blood. Our grandmother supplied homewares and accessories to luxury retailers, and our great-grandmother was a couture milliner who worked with the rich and famous of the period. My background was retail property, and George was a management consultant. Our outsider view of the industry definitely helped, as most people we spoke to before starting the business said our serviced retail model would never work.

Why did you decide the time was right to bring W&B to the US?
We have many great designers from Europe that we wanted to bring to the US, and we have customers in New York that were begging us to open a store here, as the retail offer is a little homogenous. We have been growing our business fast, and we are ready to scale it further into new territories. 

How did you come to choose the Grand Street space?
Luckily, we had a great agent, Joe Hudson from CBRE, who worked closely with us to identify the opportunity we now trade from. We wanted to be in Soho and looked at many properties before closing on 95 Grand Street.

Which brands will we find in the shop?
There is a range of womenswear, menswear, homeware, jewelry, and accessories in store. Some favorites include Okhtein, Parlor, Bassigue, Tonn Surf, Bravur Watches, Kozminka, Edge Only, Elsa, and Kirk & Kirk.

What sets your store apart from other concession-type offerings?
Although we work on a concession model, we are, in practice, so much more than just a retail space. Our staff is fully trained by the designers we carry so we can accurately communicate their brand ethos, and we also handle PR and marketing for them, encourage them to use the store for events, and have a world-class tech team promoting them online on wolfandbadger.com, where we sell globally. Ultimately, we are a multichannel retailer selling the best, highly curated selection of independent labels, and the stores play a key part in making the consumer journey a more immersive one for our brands’ clientele. 

Who’s behind the design of the store?
The store was designed by Augustus Brown. He has designed both of our London stores and the New York one is in keeping with our gallery-like, monochrome aesthetic, designed to best promote the range of brands we carry.

How does the business model work for the designers you carry?
Designers pay a modest monthly fee toward the costs of the store, and we take a small commission on sales, much lower than traditional retailers. The terms are flexible, and they are not tied to longterm contracts. They are also provided with a shop on our e-commerce site, and we work hard to push their brand out to our large network of customers. Brands are free to move between stores or move to larger or smaller spaces in store, thus creating a flexible and low cost way for them to reach and test new markets without any of the headaches of opening their own space or waiting for traditional retailers to pick them up. 

Which US designers are you eyeing?
There are many great designers in the US that we are already working with including Molly Shaheen, J Lew Bags, Bridge & Boro, Caydence Arellano, Vyayama. We are constantly on the lookout for further brands to work with. 

What is the online component?
Approximately 85 percent of our sales are online and this is growing rapidly and consistently. 

How do you find new emerging brands?
We go to fashion weeks and trade shows around the world, but the majority of the brands we work with come directly to us through word of mouth. We are fortunate that we have around 200 to 300 new brand applications per month, although we only work with fewer than 10 percent of those that apply to sell with us.

So after New York, what’s next for Wolf & Badger?
Look out for more stores in the US…LA or Miami will be next!

Photography: Ruvan Wijesooriya

You may also like

Leave a Comment