There's a good chance that many of Need Supply Co.'s best customers don't even know that it started 20 years ago as a brick-and-mortar store in Richmond, Virginia. The e-commerce site's expert mix of appealingly simple, affordable contemporary and indie brands has become a go-to for modern wardrobe staples for shoppers the world over. Richmond is still the retailer's only location, but that will soon change: Need Supply Co.'s second-ever store will open this Saturday in Shibuya, Japan, with one more to follow on Nov. 28 in Kumamoto, Japan.
Both stores will center around a mix of hard-to-find Scandinavian and Japanese brands. The company has partnered with creative director Takayuki Minami of Alpha Co. Ltd. to open the new locations, and we were surprised to find that Need Supply didn't just become Big in Japan through e-commerce. Rather, it was Human Being Journal, the retailer's biannual in-house magazine that gained it entry into the country. "It wasn't that we had an exceptional, overwhelming amount of business there," admitted Need Supply Co. Creative Director Gabriel Ricioppo, who did not found the retailer, but ushered it into the digital age by launching e-commerce back in 2008.
The brand began translating the magazine into Japanese and distributing it in the country last year, and it seems to have caught on. Need Supply Co.'s publishing partner for Journal in Japan is part of a larger company, CCC, that also operates retail projects in the country. CCC approached the retailer about opening stores there following the success of the magazine. Created largely by members of Need Supply Co.'s still-small, 40-person team, the magazine includes features on indie designers from around the world, as well as non-fashion pieces surrounding architecture, music, food and more. Ricioppo confirmed that it's truly a "labor of love," and not something the company is making money on.
Speaking of money, however, Need Supply Co. recently closed a round of funding. Ricioppo was tight on details about that, but it does mean that Japan isn't the only news. They've also opened a studio in Los Angeles, where Ricioppo is now based, along with Need Supply Co.'s Fashion Director (and Ricoppo's wife) Krystle Kemp. There, they're working on Need, the retailer's first in-house line, which Ricioppo expects to launch for spring 2016. It will encompass both men's and women's clothing, as well as denim; price-wise, Ricioppo says it will "sit alongside our current brands," and reflect the fact that it's produced entirely in LA, which is also, unsurprisingly, where Need Supply Co. plans to open its next store. "We're not rushing it," said Ricioppo, adding that New York would likely follow LA, as the retailer has "a really strong following" there as well.
The company has also used the funding to bring on more talent, including new Divisional Merchandise Manager Chris Green, a former men's apparel buyer at East Dane, who will be coming full circle, as he started his retail career at Need Supply on the Richmond, Virginia sales floor.
"We're still a small company," Ricioppo assured us. "We're a young, nimble, tech-focused company in the retail space. We wear the stuff we buy, the team is the customer and I think that creates a sense of authenticity."
Need Supply Co. is the latest in a string of retailers that have grown from small, local boutiques into national — or even international — businesses thanks to e-commerce (or, in Need Supply's odd case, a print magazine). Other recent examples include Seattle's Totokaelo and Brooklyn's Otte. It will be interesting to see how these rapidly-growing, yet boutique-minded businesses impact the retail landscape in the coming years.
Until then, we would be remiss if we did not point out Need Supply Co. is currently having a site-wide 25 percent off sale with the code EVERYONE25. Glove shoes for everyone.