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The Right Fit at Lucky Brand
A full year before a Lucky Brand shirt hits the store racks, Brant Hawk is intimately involved in its creation. He knows the rationale for every button choice, pocket placement, screen print design, and fabric weave.
The Los Angeles resident is a merchant for men's woven tops, sweaters, and outerwear. In 2009, he graduated from the College of Business Administration with a dual degree in marketing and psychology.
"I feel like I can never go shopping like a normal person again. I'm always looking at the fabric, the design, the construction, the little details I notice that the average person doesn't, because I'm working so closely with the product," Hawk says.
Always style-conscious, Hawk began his career in fashion while in Pittsburgh. The city, though a frequent target on "worst-dressed-cities" lists, is home to several national clothing companies. Hawk worked at two of them—first American Eagle Outfitters, as a visual lab associate intern, and then Dick's Sporting Goods, as a buyer and merchant for two years after college.
Hawk is not the only alumnus working for a prominent clothing company. In addition to Dick's and AE, graduates are working for the Gap in San Francisco and Chanel in New York City, and Hawk credits opportunities such as the student club, the Fashion Business Association, for putting fashion on the map at CBA.
"Having the business skills from CBA is a huge help in my job. The group projects I did at Pitt help me because I work with so many different personalities, from the design team to the creative types and the planning and allocation folks. "
It helps that Hawk is comfortable using hard data to support moments of artistic levity.
"The classes in business statistics, finance, and marketing research classes are a huge help. Since I'm able to put numbers to everything, that lets me stand apart as a merchant."
A fun part of Hawk's job is the monthly "comp shopping" day. On these occasions, he spends a day buying clothes from the competition and independent boutiques.
Lucky Brand is most widely known for its denim jeans, but has grown into the "accessible luxury" space and competes with J Crew, Banana Republic, and the Gap. In his role, Hawk works with all the different teams that take a product from concept to completion. A lead time of a year is common and multiple seasons are happening at once.
"People from the design team put ideas out there. From that, I create a guide map and give it to the team. They do sketches and design the product. There is a sketch review meeting with the VP of Design. Two months after the sketch meeting, we look at the prototypes. That's when we have swatches of fabric and all the patterns in front of us. Then we look at the small details like buttons, zippers, and picking out label packages."
This meeting isn't the end of it. In fact, Hawk is only getting started.
"Two or three months later, we have adoption. I have the full line at that point and samples of everything. Then I'll put together the entire season's worth of shirts, tops, and sweaters. I make sure the whole men's assortment looks cohesive, like one person designed it"
At this stage, Hawk looks at cost. He creates a sheet known as a buy plan and gives it to the allocation team. The final decisions move up the chain of command. Finally, the production team visits the factories to begin making the shirts.
"Colored denim is the big thing now. We forecast it would be huge," says Hawk, who got his start on the denim side of Lucky Brand, the company's flagship product.
Moving to Los Angeles was an adjustment for Hawk, who says the "traffic can be annoying" but he enjoys the vibrant social scene. Plus, the unique geography provides him the opportunity to surf in the morning and go snowboarding in the mountains in the afternoon.
Hawk says he enjoys the culture at Lucky Brand. In February, the company moved into its new, two-story headquarters in the Arts District in downtown Los Angeles, in a modern space that was designed to match the brand's rustic, Western, vintage aesthetic.
Every day, Hawk wears jeans to work. That blessing can be a curse, he explains, because of the added pressure to look hip and professional.
"My parents are always concerned about how much I'm spending on clothes," Hawk says.