Fredric Stollmack is obsessive about the weather. He watches the Weather Channel constantly, and Today show weatherman Al Roker is the celebrity he’d most like to see wearing the coats he sells.
As president of Weatherproof Garment Co., Mr. Stollmack has quietly created a fashion icon over the past four years: a water-repellent jacket for men. Last year, his company sold nearly $45 million worth of the golf-style jackets, which come in 35 colors.
“In a crowded men’s outerwear market, we decided to take a very strong point of view with microfiber,” says Mr. Stollmack, attributing the jackets’ appeal to the fabric and simple styling. “It’s a very classic spring jacket that works well with chinos or can be dressed up.”
He adds that demand for the jackets, which retail for $60, hasn’t peaked yet. Weatherproof expects to sell 2 million of them this year, racking up $60 million in total sales.
But the company knows it can’t count on one style forever. Weatherproof already has wool peacoats and suede walking jackets ready to debut in stores this fall. Plans are in the works to develop men’ssportswear next year, and the company has licensed boy’s outerwear to Daron Fashion Group, which is launching the brand this fall.
“Our challenge now is to successfully evolve the brand into other categories,” Mr. Stollmack says.
Weatherproof is a division of David Peyser Sportswear Inc., a family-run apparel company based in Bay Shore, L.I., that supplies decorated sportswear to golf resort shops and college bookstores. Mr. Stollmack came to the company with years of experience in the apparel industry, including a stint at Campus Sportswear, now defunct.
He says that his background has taught him the value of keeping up with shifting consumer preferences. “We are constantly challenging ourselves to change,” he says.
Firm’s place in the sun
Weatherproof has benefited from a string of unseasonably warm winters, since microfiber is lightweight. What’s more, the fabric has become increasingly popular in all categories of men’s apparel, from dress shirts to pants.
“The company came from nowhere and in a couple of years became a force to be reckoned with,” says Xris Wilson, divisional merchandise manager of men’s sportswear at Macy’s East, which has a Weatherproof shop in its Herald Square store. “What they’ve done with this jacket was not so easy to achieve.”
To back up the product, Weatherproof created a clever ad campaign that gives the brand some personality. Shown without a model, the jacket itself is the star; cute slogans such as “Foul Weather Friends” add punch. Mr. Stollmack has also partnered with the Red Cross, donating about 1,500 jackets to victims of storms and natural disasters.
Now that expansion is brewing, the company has decided it’s time for new ads, and has hired DeVito/Verdi for its next campaign. Weatherproof expects to more than double its ad budget to about $4 million this year, and the new images will debut this fall. Mr. Stollmack has also held preliminary discussions with Mr. Roker about becoming a spokesman.
These efforts underpin Mr. Stollmack’s plan to turn Weatherproof into a full-blown men’s collection. To accommodate the growing product line, Weatherproof recently moved to a 7,000-square-foot showroom, one and a half times the size of its previous space.
Core product washed up?
While waiting for its new ideas to take hold, Weatherproof runs the risk that fickle consumers could tire of its core product — particularly now that microfiber is common in menswear. “They dominate in that one item, but the item could die,” says Jack Wu, chief executive of outerwear firm Rainforest.
Branching out is not risk-free, either: big brands like Tommy Hilfiger and Polo Ralph Lauren have taken over department stores. Mr. Stollmack readily admits that no one needs another men’s sportswearbrand, but says his firm overcame similar saturation in outerwear.