We catch up with Jeff Abrams, designer & founder of LA-based ready-to-wear brand Rails, following the launch of the brand's new pop-up at Harrods.
RF. When did you launch Rails and what’s the ethos behind your brand?
JA. Rails was founded in 2008. It was in my early 20s living in Europe where I began to concept the Rails collection – blending a refined aesthetic with the innate effortlessness of the Southern California lifestyle. When I launched the brand, the contemporary shirting market was dominated by stiff cotton fabrications. I developed a unique tencel/rayon fabric blend, with a cashmere-like hand feel. Rails was first-to-market in bringing this concept to shirting, which filled a white space for the contemporary shopper. Luxe hand-feel became the cornerstone of the brand and we quickly gained a cult following and loyal customer base.
RF. Can you run through the Harrods pop-up space and how the collaboration came about?
JA. Harrods was amongst our first UK key accounts and is an instrumental part of our global business. This is our fifth pop-up shop with Harrods Fashion Lab. Shot in Palm Springs, the Spring 2018 campaign reflects our Southern California roots and resonates with the jet-setting Harrods customer. The space provides an amazing opportunity for customers to shop our full collection, and to be immersed in the Rails lifestyle. We also collaborated with the buying team on three exclusive patch jackets for the pop-up.
RF. Which stores stock Rails?
J.A. Rails is sold via 1,200 retailers globally, including top department and specialty stores. Key retail partners include Intermix, Saks Fifth Avenue, Neiman Marcus, and Nordstrom in the US; Harrods, Selfridges, Harvey Nichols, and Trilogy in the UK; in addition to Tsum (Russia), David Jones (Australia), Shinsegae (South Korea), Isetan (Japan), and Vakko (Turkey).
The specialty store channel remains an integral part of our business. We’re selling to over 75 independents in the UK, many of whom have stocked Rails for 4+ years. We manage this business via our network of 25 sales and PR partners, in the US, UK, France, Spain, Germany, Benelux, Scandinavia, Canada, Australia, and Japan.
RF. Do you have plans to open more pop-ups or permanent stores this year, and if so where?
JA. This Fall, we’re launching 15 shop-in-shops with our top US department store retailers, in addition to a pop-up shop at the Harvey Nichols Edinburgh location during Fringe Festival. Early 2019, we plan to open our first retail store, located in Los Angeles. We’re excited to create an environment reflective of the Rails lifestyle, and an experience for the customer to shop our full collections.
RF. How important do you think the physical store experience is?
While ecommerce and direct-to-consumer channels are growing significantly, bricks-and-mortar retail remains important for Rails. With an incredibly tactile product, our customer is experiencing and discovering Rails in store. We’re defying trends in the department store space, with 2018 in-store sales +150 per cent compared to 2017. We’re seeing similar growth trends with our ecommerce partners, in addition to our own website.
RF. What’s next for Rails?
We have very ambitious yet achievable growth plans for the years to come, in cementing Rails as a global lifestyle brand. With each season, we evolve by elevating our fabrications, silhouettes and style sensibility. Each new category is developed with this brand ethos in mind – super soft, luxe fabrications that easily merchandise back to our core products. The men’s and children’s categories have amazing potential, with dedicated design and sales teams to drive growth. We will continue to build our existing global business, and explore new opportunities in South America, the Middle East, and Asia.
Stay tuned for updates on Rails' flagship launch early 2019, with additional stores slated to open shortly thereafter.