When it comes to high-quality clothing, it’s rare to find it at an affordable price. Luxury labels in particular, whose clothes are made by experienced artisans and some of the best tailors in the world, offer clothes at exponentially-high prices. Although such is understandable, given the overall quality of the product, there is a disconnect between the label and the consumer. Not a lot of people can afford such prices, leading them to buy knock-off or garments made with lower quality. This specific problem is what contemporary label Theory aims to answer.
Theory offers high-quality clothing at affordable prices, making it available to a wider pool of consumers. Its styles are mostly sleek and casual, complete with expert tailoring and fine cuts. They’re also very wearable and versatile, as many of their pieces can be worn from day to night, from work to evening parties. They’re easy, comfortable, and not too restricting, even though it’s finely-tailored to suit various body types. A lot of their collections tend to be on the minimal side, giving the consumers free reigns to wear and style their pieces how they want. They also offer fashion staples, from simple t-shirts, jeans, and other garments that have become must-haves for any wardrobe.
A Walk Down Theory’s Memory Lane
The label was founded in 1997 by Andrew Rosen, former CEO of designer brand Anne Klein. In partnership with fashion designer Elie Tahari, Theory was launched as a womenswear line that year, focusing on elastic pants. Two years later, in 1997, the brand released their men’s collection in response to the success of the first women’s collection. Both lines received critical and commercial acclaim, leading the brand to become one of the hottest new labels of the late 1990’s. It was also established as a contemporary label, selling their products at an affordable price point, but what they offered still rivaled that of luxury labels such as Ralph Lauren and Calvin Klein.
In the early 2000’s, Japanese company Link International acquired the rights to franchise Theory in Asia, beginning the company’s international expansion. In 2003, textile firm Fast Retailing acquired 47.1% of shares of the company. That same year, the brand launched its first handbag and shoe lines, venturing beyond clothing and moving into accessories. Both lines eventually went nationwide by 2006, just in time for the Spring season. Such was the contribution of the brand to American fashion that in 2012, Andrew Rosen received the coveted Founders Award from Council of Fashion Designers of America.
Designers of Theory
Like many labels, Theory has seen its fair share of creative directors at the helm. Because of such, the company’s aesthetic has changed a bit through the years, but the principle of offering high-quality designs and garments at contemporary prices has stayed the same. The first creative director was its co-founder Elie Tahari, who designed the company’s maiden collection for both men’s and women’s to universal critical and commercial acclaim. He led the company until 2006 when Tahari exited the brand after a bitter lawsuit against Rosen.
In 2010, Olivier Theyskens, of Rochas and Nina Ricci fame, was named the artistic director of the entire company. He initially started as a guest designer for the brand’s line “Theory by Olivier Theyskens” but was then absorbed by the company altogether. During this time, the label was a key show during New York Fashion Week, with celebrities and prominent fashion editors always in attendance. In June 2014, Theyskens left the company to start his own namesake label and was replaced by former vice president of the brand, Lisa Kulson. Together with Ben Stubbington leading menswear, both designers head the label until 2017, when they both exited the company for various reasons. The current creative director for menswear is London-based designer Martin Andersson, while the one for womenswear is yet to be announced.
As part of the Fast Retailing company, the parent company of Japanese clothing brand Uniqlo, Theory was able to collaborate with said fast fashion label for a capsule collection in 2016 called “Japanese Engineering, New York Style”. They offered men’s shirts in four different styles and available in four different colors. The collection featured the excellent textiles Uniqlo is known for with the expert tailoring Theory is famous for. It was also very minimalist, with no print and embellishments, showcasing an aesthetic that was prominent at the time of its release. It became one of the most successful collaborations for both companies and received universal critical and commercial success.
Despite the recent changes in creative leadership, Theory still stands as one of the most successful contemporary labels in American fashion. The brand’s items are currently sold in over 221 retailers around the world, with a massive presence around the United States. Department stores such as Bloomingdale’s and Macy’s carry Theory, reaching to more consumers than an average fashion label who only sells in certain cities. Although their stamp on the industry is not that identifiable, they’ve amassed a faithful following of clients and consumers worldwide, one that will help carry the legacy of the contemporary label into the future.