Direct-to-consumer outerwear brand The Arrivals spent most of its first nine years in existence as a New York-based outerwear brand known for its leather jackets. But in 2019, co-founder and chief brand officer Jeff Johnson relocated to San Francisco while the brand’s operations remained based in New York. The brand’s bicoastal setup over the last three years has led to a reinvention of the its ethos and aesthetic.
“After the move, the entire brand incrementally started to embrace the technical side [of apparel],” Johnson said. “We’ve moved away from chasing trends or fashion and more toward these performance pieces like puffers that are meant to compete with, say, a Patagonia. And those technical pieces have been our best-performing products category in the last year.”
That ethos can be seen in the brand’s latest collection, which is its first rainwear collection, released on March 1. Johnson said the team has introduced new materials, including a three-layer bonded membrane, to ensure the product performs as well as the competition. It’s also linked with new factories. For its technical and performance gear, The Arrivals uses a factory in China, where Johnson said the most technically advanced manufacturers are. It works with a factory in Los Angeles for its cut-and-sew fashion pieces.
Johnson wants to position The Arrivals between the two extremes of outerwear. On the one side are brands like Patagonia and Arc’teryx with lots of credibility among hardcore hikers and outdoors enthusiasts but less with the urban high fashion set. Johnson jokingly called these companies “granola brands.” On the other side is luxury brands like Moncler, which Johnson said have the opposite audience: lots of love from the high-fashion crowd, less so from actual mountaineers. Between them is a white space that he hopes The Arrivals can fill.
For now, 70% of The Arrivals’ audience resides in New York, the majority of which are women. But the second largest cohort is a growing community of The Arrivals lovers on the West Coast, which are mostly men. Johnson said the gender aspect wasn’t intentional, just an interesting quirk of the different communities. But the larger West Coast consumer base was a purposeful choice.
To grow this performance-focused outdoor enthusiast base, Johnson said the brand has done a combination of IRL events, like hosting community hikes on both coasts, and working with content creators with outdoor credibility. The Arrivals sent products to @gorpcoretex, an anonymous but influential Instagrammer with more than 50,000 followers, and Advanced Rock, the pseudonym of photographer Liam Furneaux. Both regularly showcase high-quality outdoor gear, and both posted favorably about The Arrivals, from a performance perspective, on their Instagram.
“These people are validators in the space,” Johnson said. “They have experience with brands like Arc’teryx and Patagonia, and they have such a discerning eye for serious outdoor gear. It’s really validating for us to be embraced by them.”
The Arrivals has also begun shifting its advertising and creative content. For example, it’s doing more photo shoots on the West Coast, specifically in the Pacific Northwest, to show the product out in the field rather than on city streets. An upcoming campaign was shot in Portland in mid-February.
But moving into this performance space won’t be easy, according to Hanna Lane, senior account director of fashion at marketing firm Power Digital. Lane said outdoor enthusiasts tend to be loyal to the brands they’ve been using. And while The Arrivals can and has made headway into the new consumer segment, it won’t be easy to unseat big brands like Patagonia.
“The Arrivals has the potential to compete with established performance brands by showcasing the unique, objectively measurable performance features of their product,” Lane said.
The Arrivals has been primarily DTC since it launched, selling a small percentage at wholesale through select retailers like Bergdorf Goodman. Johnson said he wants to keep wholesale small and continue to focus on DTC. The brand slightly raised its prices last year, and Johnson said he hopes to keep current prices throughout this year.
“We’re still curious about inflation,” Johnson said. “Right now, our costs have gone up a little bit, just because the manufacturers are cautious and are charging more beyond the true cost of materials and labor. But we’re still waiting to see if this is going to be more of an issue for us.”