Chaser women clothing was founded in 1988 as an independent tee shirt line that embodied the cutting-edge style of the burgeoning punk rock scene in Los Angeles. Combining art, music, and fashion, Chaser has established itself as a unique brand within an increasingly crowded marketplace. More than 20 years later, music is still the soul of the label, but Chaser has moved far beyond tee shirts, incorporating revolutionary fabrications, washes, printing processes and design-driven styles.
“Almost no one buys our T-shirts because they are a Grateful Dead fan,” said Hadi Salem, chief executive officer of Chaser. The Los Angeles–based brand has more licenses for classic rock bands—The Clash, Jimi Hendrix, Pink Floyd, David Bowie and MC5 are a few—than the roster of a summer music festival. He continued: “They like the like the imagery, hand feel and styling of the garment that goes with it.”
Salem wants Chaser to be known for more than T-shirts. The brand dates back to the mid-1980s and has always specialized in licensed rock-music apparel. In 2006, Salem launched the women’s contemporary brand, less than half of which is made up of licensed apparel, with the rest composed of original graphics and non-graphic “L.A. knits”–type bodies. For Spring 2012 the brand expanded into more sweaters, pants and dresses in better yarns and fabrics. By Fall 2012 the sweaters offerings will have grown from three to 18 bodies.
On top of the music-inspired culture, each heavily washed T-shirt, sweater knit and dress is held to the “highest standard” and must pass Salem’s stroke test. “I just know it when I feel it,” Salem said. “I think one of the Supreme Court justices said, ‘I don’t know how to describe pornography, but I know it when I see it.’”
Selling a T-shirt printed with Elton John’s face is one thing; selling a knit maxi dress with no print is another challenge. The expanded women’s collection holds those same values of rock ’n’ roll lifestyle and yummy fabrics. “It really has to have the best hand in its class. Our leather jackets are made from buckskin. It’s just the softest and most expensive leather we can find,” Salem said. Retail price points for T-shirts average $60 to $80, leather jackets retail for about $500, and sweaters range from the low $100s to high $200s.
Once the customer finds the product in the store, Chaser’s concerted social-media outreach strategy aims to convert the customer into a fan of the brand.
“There are two sales in the business: the first, which is obviously to my buyers, and then there’s the second sale that counts. We have brand recognition in the first sale,” said Salem, referring to retailing in big doors such as Bloomingdale’s. Through increased efforts with social media, including Twitter, Chaser is beginning to see more of a following with the end consumer—and not just the buyer, Salem said.
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