Retail entrepreneur and visionary Julian Dunkerton is back at his unique best. Superdry, the company he founded in 2003, and returned to rescue in 2019, last night revealed a new concept store on Cheltenham’s most prestigious shopping street, the Promenade, just a couple of weeks after opening a new store on London’s iconic Oxford Street.
Forget what you think you know about Superdry, This is a real step forward in approach.
As you step into the store, on the left is Superdry’s Studios. Described by the company as an “elevated capsule wardrobe”. The Studios look is effortless and aspirational, defined by classic silhouettes, perfected cuts, and made using fibres with a lighter environmental footprint such as organic cotton, hemp, yak and TencelTM.
The new store will feature the brand’s popular recycled range and CULT pinnacle pieces. One the right is Superdry’s Performance Sport Brand, which it describes as “engineered to optimise every workout, Performance Sport fuses technical standards across RUN, TRAIN, FLEX and SNOW disciplines.”
With main high street fashion retailers now embracing ‘athleisure’, Superdry is looking at form and function, to design and make sportswear which is fit for purpose. Only last month we revealed that Superdry is to partner with graphene innovator (and another Gloucestershire company) Versarien to pioneer the production of graphene-enhanced garments, using Versarien’s graphene-wear technology, with a view to importing graphene’s thermal and moisture management properties into its garments.
Superdry has stated that it believes using Versarien’s innovative graphene technology will result in product lines with improved performance and extended product lifespan, with lower environmental impact in their creation, whilst also reducing the need to add any virgin material during recycling. Superdry believes having access to Versarien’s scientists and laboratories in Manchester and Cambridge will accelerate the brand’s innovation platform, enabling Superdry and Versarien to create garments unlike any others on the market.
That’s all in the future, but the new performance sport range at Superdry looks the business already, and I can see Gymshark devotees perhaps taking a second look at Superdry’s offer.
Speaking to our editor, Nicky Godding, yesterday evening at the preview, Julian said: “Studio is very subtly branded, a bit more adult. Classic designs which are increasingly sustainably led. We want to show the consumer how far we have come as a brand.”
Julian is serious about boosting the brand’s sustainability credentials. Earlier this year he was appointed Organic Ambassador at The Soil Association‘s Best of Organic Market (BOOM) awards.
The award notes Dunkerton’s “passion for organic” at both his cider company, Dunkerton’s Cider, and Superdry, where he has accelerated its organic cotton targets by five years, aiming for all of its pure cotton garments to be produced entirely from organic cotton by 2025.
The company was also cited in The Financial Time’s inaugural listing of Europe’s Climate Leaders. It was at the top of 300 companies that achieved the greatest reduction in their greenhouse gas emissions intensity between 2014-2019.
In 2019 Julian returned to Superdry, the company he co-founded in 2003, after a well-publicised campaign to take back control after he and his co-founder, James Holder, became critical of the company’s direction after his departure. In 2019, the co-founders issued a statement saying: “In less than a year, all Superdry shareholders have experienced a 70 per cent fall in the share price and seen over £1.2 billion of value destroyed. Urgent action is required to address this alarming decline. By bolstering the Board and returning the two co-founders to the business, Superdry would return to be a design-led business: they would reinvigorate the DNA of the brand and get the business back on track and achieving its great potential.”
That passion, stated more than two years ago, remains undimmed.
Last night Julian said: “My heart and soul is in this brand, is in this town, is in this industry. To feel like I was needed back was an honour. I will do whatever I can to enable it to thrive and prosper. You have to look forwards not backwards, and that’s what we’re doing.”
But the retail landscape has changed considerably over the last few years, not least in growing public demand for fashion retailers to adopt more sustainable policies.
Julian’s commitment to organic plays a major role in his vision for the company’s future. Superdry is currently supporting more than 20,000 farmers to transition to organic farming methods, cultivating land across India.
Today, more than a fifth of the company’s garments contain organic cotton, with one third of all garments containing organic, recycled, and low impact fibres including Tencel, Hemp, Yak or Linen.
All of Superdry’s padded outerwear jackets from its new Autumn/Winter 2020 range used recycled fill. This collection also saw the launch of a line of vegan trainers, which has been registered by the Vegan Society.
The company has also been on renewable energy since 2014.
“We have got much further to go, but in terms of the industry we are way ahead of what others are doing,” he said.
“We are going right through the supply chain to push the industry forward.”
“A well made piece of branded clothing has an afterlife. It has a value. So people tend not to put it into landfill or throw it away. That’s the reality of well-made clothing. Unbranded cheap clothes are more likely to end up in landfill.”
Superdry knows that there’s a long way to go, and Julian is aware of the greenwashing that goes on across the sector. But he has the determination and the passion and is channeling it to make Superdry as relevant now as it was almost 20 years ago.