Shady character: Micah Cohen’s Shades of Grey offers something for everyone.
The odds are against you these days if you’re trying to launch a menswear brand. Yet Shades of Grey by Micah Cohen is in its ninth season and going strong. The collection is a balance between progressive fashion and wearable accessibility that includes contemporary sportswear, suiting, outerwear and basics.
Carried by a diverse range of stores, Shades of Grey has benefited from a unique partnership with a factory in China, which has helped enable Cohen to bring a dizzying number of SKUs to market, appealing to a larger pool of retailers. His new women’s line, now in its second season, is following suit.
What have you learned since you launched the brand?
I’ve learned that success and failure have less to do with your actual product and more to do with marketing, hype and sales. A lot of great product/brands don’t succeed and a lot of really average stuff does. I’m still confounded by what does well and why.
How has the company changed since you started?
My company hasn’t changed much at all. My business still operates much in the same way as it did when I launched. I’m just designing a little more product now. I think with the way I have things set up, even a huge growth spurt will result in very little change day to day. I travel to China six or seven times a year now, for 10 or so days at a time. They’re definitely not vacation days, and I don’t necessarily enjoy the trips.
If you don’t enjoy the travel, what do you enjoy?
I get the most pleasure out of the development process, particularly when I find something that unexpectedly works. I might be trying a new design thing, or even when the factory makes a mistake during the process and it actually works, or when I find fabrics in really unexpected places: those are the kinds of things that keep me eager to start a new season and continue.
You’re already in most major department stores and trendy boutiques. Are there any plans for a Shades of Grey store?
It’s definitely something I’ve thought about. It’s been about a year since I started selling on my website, and I’ve found that to be really great. Coming from my very cautious mentality, doing a retail store properly is a large undertaking. If I do, it will probably be out here in LA.
So is that what’s next?
I’m focusing on building the women’s. I just shipped the first season, and showed the second season during New York Fashion Week. We’ll see about the retail…
What will be big for spring 2014?
Key items in men’s include baseball shirts, contrast fabric bomber jackets and printed bombers, along with linen and canvas suiting, which is always strong for us.