A Vancouver, B.C.-based retailer aiming to build “a global brand in less than five years” is planning the Seattle component to its plan for world fashion domination in a former Pike internet cafe where rent has likely soared thanks to the massive, shiny new neighbor across the street.
CHS has learned that Kit and Ace, a “technical luxury” clothing retailer created by J.J. Wilson, son of Lululemon Athletica founder Chip Wilson, and his stepmom Shannon Wilson. Here’s what Canada’s The Globe and Mail had to say about the ambitious new company:
Since opening its first store in July, 2014, Kit and Ace has rolled out six more shops—including Toronto, New York, Calgary and Saskatoon. This fall, it will open an additional 30 outlets across North America, the U.K. and Australia. The aim is to build “a global brand in less than five years,” according to J.J. “It’s just better to have two feet in.”
“The retailer isn’t hindered by the typical cash-flow straitjacket others may endure—both founders were shareholders in Lululemon, and Chip is reportedly worth $2.2 billion,” the Globe and Mail report notes.
According to permits with the City of Seattle, the new store is slated to open on the 1100 block of Pike in the former home of Uncle Elizabeth’s, the last of Capitol Hill’s internet cafes. The cafe shuttered in 2013 and has stood empty since. The space is located on the ground floor of the Wintonia building — a housing project run by Catholic Housing Services. Uncle Elizabeth’s owner told CHS his lease included a “no sin clause” preventing him from having alcohol or tobacco sales, among other things, inside the shop.
The plans to lease the space will likely represent a windfall for the Archdiocese. Late last year, Starbucks opened its $30 million+ roastery and cafe facility at the corner or Melrose and Pike across the street from the planned Kit and Ace. The stretch of Pike is considered Capitol Hill proper but elements of downtown retail have tended to bleed uphill with brands like Stussy also operating in the area. A $1 billion project to expand the Washington Convention Center could further connect — or create a large disconnection — between downtown and lower Pike/Pine.
Meanwhile, new construction farther up Pike is making space for a planned 10,000-square-foot store for a mystery retailer CHS has yet to be able to identify.
The plans also come as proponents and opponent of Seattle’s new minimum wage law are watching openings — and closings — of businesses and chains in the city as evidence of the impact of higher wages.
Kit and Ace representatives are also being secretive about their Pike plans. A company spokesperson declined to comment on the project.
UPDATE: Soon after our post went live, CHS received this press release announcing the new Capitol Hill Kit and Ace:
June 2, 2015 (Vancouver, B.C.) – Canadian retailer Kit and Ace has announced plans to launch a shop in Seattle this July. The company has selected a space at 1123 Pike Street in Capitol Hill as its first test shop in the Seattle area. The Vancouver-based retailer, founded by Shannon and JJ Wilson, designs and develops technical luxury apparel made from proprietary fabrics like machine-washable cashmere.
The shop opening in Seattle is in line with Kit and Ace’s steady growth plans. The company launched its first location in Vancouver, B.C. in July 2014 and has since opened six more doors across North America, including New York and San Francisco.
“We are still in our beta phase, testing product, market integration, and locations. Capitol Hill is a design-driven area that truly embodies the creative class,” said JJ Wilson, Brand Director at Kit and Ace. “This is the perfect neighbourhood for Kit and Ace to offer an innovative experience, both through our clothing and our retail space.”
Each Kit and Ace shop incorporates considerate design and locally-sourced elements inspired by its location. These “hyper-local” elements are custom quality pieces created by local artists and contractors that are featured in shop, including a Supper Club table (where monthly dinners with local creatives are held), a Feature Light, and an Iconic Piece in the fits area. By including these aspects, Kit and Ace creates an elevated shopping experience in which locals are engaged with the brand beyond the traditional sense.
“It’s important that our shop experience is as seamless as the clothing we offer,” Shannon Wilson, Creative Director and Co-Founder at Kit and Ace, explains. “We are inspired by the local neighborhoods and the creative class in these markets – our clothes are designed for them and our shops are created to foster those relationships.”
Kit and Ace is projecting to open 50 shops worldwide by the end of 2015.
We also had an opportunity to talk with Wilson about the new company and its plans for Capitol Hill.
Wilson professed ignorance that he would be sharing the street with the massive Starbucks facility. “That’s insane,” he said after hearing CHS’s description of the roastery.
“We’re huge fans of the emerging creative class and the real estate factor has to be there — the right space on the right street,” Wilson said. “Also our product offering — technical cashmere — we felt like Seattle in general is a really great market for us.”
“The Capitol Hill area is us,” he said.