Q&A With Skull Cashmere’s Andrew Gifford
The Giffords might be the most fashionable family you know. Leslie and Bruce Gifford launched the contemporary knitwear brand, 360Cashmere, in 2009 after selling their successful SWEATER.COM business in 2006. Brother and sister, Andrew and Alexandra currently work for 360Cashmere. Their West Coast upbringing and New York lifestyle inspire their love and passion for creating casual yet dramatic luxury knitwear. Together, they bring four generations of knowledge about global sourcing and fashion marketing to create an exciting brand that is unique in the marketplace. In a short time, the bi-coastal family has built the hottest international brand in women’s better contemporary knitwear by blending effortless beach chic with sexy sophistication.
360Cashmere is offered only at the finest retailers and major department stores in the United States, Europe and Canada. In addition to 360Cashmere, July 2013 saw the launch of their latest, edgier collection, Skull Cashmere, driven by the creative vision of their New York based son, Andrew. Like the circle made up of 360 degrees, everything comes back around to family and the creative energy that binds them together.
“360 is the Muscle, Skull Cashmere is the Brand. They truly complement each other” -Andrew Gifford
MR: How did you start working with your family?
AG: My parents, Bruce and Leslie Gifford, have been in the apparel business for about 30 years. I had just graduated from college in the midst of the 2008/9 recession and I was leaving my third job in 6 months. I took my Dad out to dinner and asked him for a job and I was on a plane to New York the following week to help them launch 360Cashmere. I wore every hat throughout the first year- marketing, PR, advertising, sales. Back then we only had six people on the team.
MR: How has the company grown?
AG: Two years ago, we brought on my sister, Alex. She had worked at Balenciaga and Rag & Bone. Now we each have our own portions of the business that we are involved in. I handle marketing, public relations and ecommerce and Alex handles sales. This job has given me the opportunity to grow my self-worth. I currently have seven people working for me, well, we all work together and we all love our jobs. My dad handles all of the manufacturing in Asia while my mom is the president of the company and overseas all of the design. It used to just be her designing and now the design team is comprised of six people.
MR: How was Skull Cashmere created?
AG: Skull Cashmere is my baby. It was my idea essentially. When I saw brands starting to take advantage of social
media, I wanted to add something really iconic and memorable to our brand that would look great in any editorial. I thought of the skull motif. We printed a few on 360 sweaters and almost overnight we were known as “the skull sweater”. It was a great branding and merchandising move. All we had to do was change the label in the garment and overnight our brand was born. 360 is the muscle and Skull Cashmere is the brand. They truly complement each other.
MR: What is it like working with your family on such a successful clothing line?
AG: We’ve got a pretty unique family and definitely a bizarre situation that just happens to work. Busine
ss is 24/7. Business revolves around the family and the family revolves around the business. 95% of the time it’s great. Our parents are colleagues
but they’re also family, so the lines are a little blurred. I wouldn’t speak to my dad like I would my boss and I wouldn’t speak to my boss like I would my dad. But we’re all really close. They’re more than parents or colleagues, they’re friends. We have a very reciprocal relationship and way of sharing knowledge. Alex and I are able to show them lot of things people their age don’t have the exposure to, like social media marketing for instance. Working with us gives them an opportunity to be young and notice trends again. We give them a fresh pair of eyes from our generation. Conversely, they have loads of business experience that they have passed on to us. This kind of flow makes the company work. Honestly, it feels great to be creating something together and to work so efficiently doing so.
MR: Are skulls a trend or are they here to stay?
AG: People say they’re a trend but skulls have been popular imagery in fashion forever. Think about how many brands design with a skull motif in mind- Ed Hardy, Affliction, Alexander McQueen. I mean, if we have to bend with the market, we’ll bend with the market and make them subtler or sexier. We used a marijuana motif for a while but everyone missed the skulls. People talk about them. Our brand is a brand based around that image and we’ve attached it to one of the finest luxury items, a cashmere sweater. I kind of think we have set the bar. It’s not going to go out of style.