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Up-and-Coming Retailers: Brooklyn Industries


Is this hip and forward-thinking clothing company the next Urban Outfitters?

And care for the community, Funk does. She frequently has T-shirts designed around an idea, and then donates the proceeds back to the local organization that's fighting for those issues. Her hope is that BI's customers, by donning the product, will keep the conversation going so that the partnership between product and consumer becomes prolific.

Case in point: Brooklyn Industries just recently introduced a new T-shirt featuring a dinosaur about to chow down on a carrot. The project was done in collaboration with Just Food -- a group that connects local farms and sustainably grown food to NYC neighborhoods and communities. Brooklyn Industries will donate 20% of the proceeds from T-shirt sales to the organization.

Other than its line of branded T-shirts and "neighbor-hoodies," however, pride is implied -- it's not communicated with logo-laden sweaters, pants, dresses, bags, and purses. This seems to be in direct contrast to companies like Aeropostale (ARO) and American Eagle (AEO), whose clothing is marketed (and ultimately successful) because of the presence of company logos.

But those retailers aren't really the company's competitors anyway.

Brooklyn Industries' wares are more comparable to those of American Apparel (APP) and Urban Outfitters (URBN), both of which cater to a modish youth. The former is the largest clothing manufacturer in the US; the latter operates more than 140 locations both nationally and internationally, and owns five retail brands in total.

Though both American Apparel and Brooklyn Industries specialize in T-shirts and focus heavily on positive working environments, Funk has resisted the comparison to it, as well as to alternative-clothing retailer Urban Outfitters.

In 2006, her broker, Simon Dallimore said "American Apparel is the Gap to me," suggesting that BI's products move beyond those of the popular retail chain. Urban Outfitters isn't really a match either, he argued. The Urban Outfitters shopper is typically younger and may patronize BI stores, but the reverse isn't true.

But David Rosenberg, executive vice president at Robert K. Futterman & Associates sees space for both and room for comparison. Both, he says, cater to "the hip, the cool, the sophisticated" market.

So how does a recent upstart forge through its first recession? By opening more stores, of course.

Nicole Burgan, a PR representative that spoke with Minyanville, said that BI would like to open an outlet in every major US market.

And it's on its way: Stores already exist in Brooklyn and Manhattan in New York; in Portland, Oregon; and in Chicago, Illinois. The company plans a new store opening in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, for February 2010.

As we enter the new year, Funk says she wants Brooklyn Industries to be the "premier contemporary design company in New York that produces innovative designs and is the finest company to work with."

With goals like that, who needs New Year's resolutions?

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