This is not a fun story to write. According to several people who have worked at, or with, the company, Band of Outsiders has laid off the majority of its staff, and canceled all fall wholesale orders. The brand was low on funds and chose not to produce its next collection. Among those to leave within the last month include Nicole Cari, who was with the Los Angeles-based company from 2008 on as its vice president of marketing and communications.
Designer Scott Sternberg founded Band of Outsiders in 2004 as a men's tie and shirting company, which was quickly picked up by Barneys. In 2007, he launched a complementary women's line, and was a CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund nominee in 2008. Band developed more than a cult following among fashion types who love the slightly askew preppy look. A former talent agent, Sternberg's cool celebrity friends like Kirsten Dunst and Aziz Ansari happily posed for his Polaroid look books. Jason Schwartzman wore his tuxedo on the red carpet.
In 2010, Sternberg put a strategy in place to take the business, which at that time was doing about $12 million in sales, to the next level. "I'm just trying to maintain an honest and growing dialogue with people," he told the Wall Street Journal. "Over time, the plan is to offer a wider range of products and price points, and I don't think that at all compromises the dialogue." In 2013, he took an outside investment, and opened his first standalone store in Tokyo. Last fall, the first Band of Outsiders outpost in the U.S. opened on Wooster Street. As of today, the store is still open.
Whether or not this is truly the end of Band of Outsiders is impossible to know. Companies fold and come back in different ways. I've been covering Band of Outsiders since I started reporting on the fashion industry in the mid-aughts, and I've always been impressed by Sternberg's joyful, incredibly precise point of view. He had some wise words for the attendees of Fashionista's November 2014 Los Angeles conference that can't help but feel relevant today:
"I think that the world of a collection brand, unless you’re really really sure that you have this original vision, and you have the resources to execute it on a runway and you can compete with Balenciaga and Vuitton because you’re on the same Style.com where everybody is, then you should not do that because it’s a lot of work, it’s really, really hard to realize that. It’s so few and far between that actually can; I think Altuzarra’s the last one who’s been able to do it. It’s hard to make money and if that’s your thing go for it, but for me I don’t think the world and the world of fashion necessarily works that way. You don’t need to be that anymore, you can be an expert at something, not just as a business but even editorially if thats important to you. I think focusing, being an expert at something, you have to stand for something. You have to have a product that represents what your brand is and starting with a full collection, unless you’re an Alex Wang type, then I wouldn’t do it."
Band of Outsiders's press representative declined to comment on this story.