Hans-Christian Meyer isn’t shy about taking a page from the Ralph Lauren playbook.
Since joining J.Lindeberg as chief executive officer three years ago, the one-time president of retail for Ralph Lauren’s European operations still speaks reverentially about the American icon.
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Joking that he served as the tour guide for Lauren and his family whenever they visited Europe, Meyer said his time spent with the designer over the 12 years he worked for the company taught him the power of branding.
It’s this lesson that he has brought to the Stockholm-based J.Lindeberg.
Together with creative director Neil Lewty, the former senior head of design for Hugo Boss Sportswear who also worked for Tommy Hilfiger and Bamford & Sons, Meyer has worked to home in on J.Lindeberg’s heritage as a brand that bridges sports and fashion.
It’s paying off.
Revenue has more than doubled over the past two years, increasing from $60 million in 2020 to $130 million last year, Meyer revealed. Although he’s not blind to the “headwinds” that are facing all fashion brands in 2023, he is projecting further growth this year.
“In 2022, we broadened our offering and entered new markets, which has enabled us to double our revenue — a goal and an important milestone that also allows our continued growth plans,” Meyer said.
The U.S., which represents 23 percent of the total business, also doubled sales in the past two years, he added.
In the U.S., the brand is still mainly known for its golfwear. The label was founded by Johan Lindeberg, the former marketing director of Diesel, in 1996 and was among the first collections to bring a designer sensibility to the golfwear market.
Lindeberg has been in and out of the brand several times since then but is not associated with it at this time. Since 2012 it has been owned by Anders Holch Povlsen, Dan Friis and Allan Warburg of the Bestseller group. There is a separate Chinese division that operates under license.
Meyer said shortly after joining J.Lindeberg in June 2020, he doubled down on identifying the brand’s positioning and culture. He was careful to include the company’s longtime employees in this exercise to ensure he was on the right track.
Once that was identified, he could then turn to building the business.
“We implemented the Business Right model,” he said, explaining that the crux of this is that “everything needs to be right for the brand and the business at the same time.”
“For 10 years, the brand was not that successful and did not make much profit. I can lead the way but the company needs to support me. It’s about creating a super-strong culture and investing in the long term. If you don’t know what the brand or the culture is, you’re just a numbers-driven company selling product, not selling an experience.”
That experience is centered around injecting fashion into performance product, a message that is delivered in the collections as well as the marketing, Meyer said.
“We can do what very few sports brands can do,” he said, pointing to the prints and materials Lewty uses for the collection to set it apart from other sports labels.
Globally, he said 60 percent of overall sales come from the sports side, with fashion accounting for the remainder. But now the two collections are more in sync.
“Prior to Neil and me, there were two teams operating in silos — nothing was synchronized,” he said.
The impact of the fashion on the larger brand is also helping the business evolve, Meyer said.
In the U.S., only the sports collection is available today, with J.Lindeberg’s biggest customers being the PGA Superstore and World Wide Golf. Starting this fall, the fashion collection will also be offered to the U.S. market and the company is “in dialogue” with upscale retailers such as Nordstrom, Neiman Marcus, and Saks Fifth Avenue as well as independent specialty stores about adding the collection.
Three years ago the U.S. business was 70 percent menswear, but womenswear now accounts for 52 percent of overall sales. Menswear continues to be 60 percent of the business in both Europe and Asia. All of the women’s product is in the sports sector since J.Lindeberg closed the fashion line in spring 2021. Meyer said it will be relaunched for fall 2025 and will be overseen by Lewty so the positioning is similar to the men’s offering.
“With fashion, you can move the brand a lot faster,” Meyer said. “Women are more open-minded so we see opportunity to accelerate the business through fashion.”
In the U.S., wholesale still represents 50 percent of J.Lindeberg’s business from a gross margin perspective, he said, with the company’s recently revamped e-commerce site making up the remainder. Although the brand operates 157 stores around the world — mainly in China — there are none in the U.S.
Meyer said that although there are no plans to open stores in the U.S. this year, he has identified several locations around the country where he can see J.Lindeberg adding boutiques. That includes New York City, Miami and Los Angeles — cities “where we need to be present,” he said.
Also helping to raise the brand’s profile in America is a deal the company inked last month with USA Golf to become the official apparel partner for the athletes, caddies, coaches and staff for the Olympic Games in Paris in 2024 and Los Angeles in 2028. Adidas had been the former apparel partner of the team.
“We’re not an American brand, so we’re very honored that we were chosen,” Meyer said.
Looking forward, he said the company will revamp its back-office operating systems in the second half of next year to be more efficient and it is also increasing its retail presence.
Later this spring a new flagship will open in Seoul, South Korea, on Cheongdam-dong Luxury Shopping Street in the Gangnam District. In August, Meyer said the company will unveil a flagship in the former Burberry space in Copenhagen during that city’s fashion week. A runway show is also going to be staged to introduce the new store. Beyond that, other stores are slated for key cities in Scandinavia, including Oslo, he said.
Is J.Lindeberg planning to show during the high-profile fashion weeks in Paris or Milan? Meyer didn’t rule it out, but said that his focus right now is more on getting the brand positioning right.
“It’s a huge investment if you want to get on the calendar in Paris,” he said. “But our ambitions are super high and we have the potential to be there.”
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