Established in Marseille in 2005, apparel label American Vintage is the brainchild of Michaël Azoulay, who drew inspiration from the vast landscapes and laid-back ambiance of the United States to reinvent a timeless classic – the T-shirt.
Eighteen years on, American Vintage has approximately 200 stores globally, opening an average of 15 points of sale every year, and a strong presence in Europe which in recent years has extended to international markets such as North America and Asia.
Its offering has also since expanded from Azoulay’s take on the perfect T-shirt, into a diverse range of men’s, women’s, and children’s apparel that employs a signature mix of vibrant colours and premium materials.
Including store staff, American Vintage has over 800 employees, with a prospect of turnover of EUR180 million (around USD190 million) within the next two years.
In conversation with Retail in Asia, American Vintage founder Michaël Azoulay stresses the importance of bolstering his brand’s omnichannel strategy and introducing the brand to more international markets, as American Vintage opens its fourth boutique in Hong Kong with a fifth opening before the end of the year.
RiA: American Vintage is well established in Europe. Can you share a bit more about your recent expansion plans?
Michaël Azoulay: We have taken a careful, omnichannel approach to our expansion in the United States. We have only opened one store during the COVID-19 pandemic: North America with our first store in New York, opened in 2021. And since then, we have been focused on developing rooms for multi-brand exhibitions to expand our B2B presence.
From this year, we started selling online and shipping from France. We are now confident even in our American approach, because we are taking it step by step. We like the idea of serving customers through different channels. We need to develop B2B, some points of sale and our online presence. Our team will open two more stores [in North America] at the beginning of 2024 in Malibu and Newport Beach.
RiA: What are your thoughts on expanding your presence in Asia? Which markets do you feel have the most potential in this region?
Azoulay: Right now, we have four stores in Hong-Kong, including our brand-new one at Elements. We planned to open a new one at the beginning of December 2023 in Times Square [Causeway Bay]. We also have one store in Singapore, as we focus our energy on these two cities.
RiA: In terms of more concrete plans, what is next for American Vintage’s distribution channels in Asia?
Azoulay: Our strategy consists of bolstering existing markets – Europe and what we already started in America, and then concentrating on markets where we think American Vintage can have high potential, such as Israel, the United Arab Emirates and Asia.
The brand has approximately 200 stores spread over 19 European countries now, including France, Germany, Spain, Portugal, the United Kingdom, and in international markets, such as the United States, Asia, the United Arab Emirates and Israel.
For the future, we would like to expand further in America and China. We must build a solid foundation for the future and stay focused on what we do best. Our next openings in 2023 are in Hong Kong and Dublin, in December.
RiA: You founded American Vintage as a premium T-shirt brand, and the brand has since evolved into a complete collection with men’s, women’s and childrenswear. How do you envision the brand’s product development going forward?
Azoulay: Since its inception in 2005, American Vintage has unveiled many of men’s, women’s and unisex clothing collections. Last year, we introduced around 30 new ready-to-wear pieces for cool kids. This season, tea towels, bathrobes and other accessories are making their debut.
We had already begun the process of expanding our collections to the home with the design of our stores. We wanted to continue to convey our values and mindset, and establish American Vintage as a nomadic brand that you can take anywhere.
Inspired by the Mediterranean, where AMV is based, the lifestyle collection of the brand features two components dedicated to two different atmospheres in people’s homes. First, the kitchen, with a tablecloth, tea towel, apron and picnic blanket. Then the bedroom and bathroom, with a bathrobe, towel sets and a guest towel.
The materials, natural fabrics inspired by fashion pieces, with honeycomb knit, cotton gauze and twill come in bright colours, like fluorescent pink, and more natural tones like ecru and heather grey. The clothing from the capsule collection comes in loose, comfortable cuts, leaving lots of room for movement. Tablecloths for sharing, picnic blankets for enjoying the fresh air, robes for relaxing and aprons for cooking. This capsule collection was designed for simple living.
For the future, we want to continue to work on our strengths: shapes, colours and fabrics, for men, women, children and the home. We are also gradually moving towards more sustainable products.
RiA: American Vintage Elements is the brand’s fourth boutique in Hong Kong. Can you tell us about this new store? How have Hongkongers responded to the brand?
Azoulay: This space at Elements reveals a new design with a denim bar, mixed with natural materials and colours. [It’s] a nod to the Mediterranean, echoing the origins and noble elements of the Marseille brand.
Two large windows offer a view of the coffee machine and the olive tree around which the store revolves. It’s a way of introducing one of the brand values: well-being. The use of tiles, a first among the Hong Kong stores, helps showcase the pieces, notably behind the T-shirt bar and denim bar. More and more lifestyle-focused, the spaces are now organised around break areas that encourage discussions in an intuitive and enthusiastic way. As for the service, it goes far beyond fashion tips.
In the relaxation space, between trying on outfits, visitors can enjoy the atmosphere, while sipping a coffee or browsing through a book. While guests may come here to discover the American Vintage universe, they stay to have a great conversation. With this in mind, the team are delighted to share travel tips and talk about their must-visit spots in the city.
In general, American Vintage has always designed its stores as places where people can actually meet instead of just crossing paths. Clients of Elements are encouraged to stop for a moment and unwind, to take a break and immerse themselves in the American Vintage spirit.
American Vintage is cosmopolitan and international brand. It’s a product that reflects Marseille for its cosmopolitan side and its light, and it also reflects France with its romantic, sensual and carnal side, something in the softness and femininity. And also, an American side in the state of mind, to go forward all the time and to exceed its limits and its borders.
Americans are also more primary, cooler, more comfortable with a great culture of T-shirts and washes. The American Vintage brand is a mix of all three, and we think that this appeals to Hongkongers. American Vintage is a lifestyle and a state of mind. The brand’s intention is not to impose a look, but to help everyone assert their own personality.