Melanie Cox, the new CEO of the teen clothing store Wet Seal, kicked off her vision for the brand’s turnaround with just two simple looks: a “schlumpy” tee and a simple midi-cap sleeve dress, reports Racked.
In January 2015, Wet Seal closed more than 300 stores and filed for bankruptcy. The company was then acquired in April by Versa Capital Management. Following the purchase, Cox, who was working for Versa as a part of the team that made the decision to buy Wet Seal, was appointed as the new CEO.
Cox – who is now the fourth CEO to work for Wet Seal within the past four years – previously worked for the brand earlier in her career.
This fall, Cox revealed a new look for Wet Seal’s 2016 revolution.
“Up until that point there was a real struggle over the word sexy,” Cox told Racked. “It would be like ‘Oh, the club. We’re going to do the club line, we’re going to do sexy, edgy,’ and it was being interpreted in this really bad ’80s, slutty, cheesy way. I’m not kidding. I would sit in meetings and be like ‘Guys, there’s a fine line between sexy and slutty and we don’t want to cross it.'”
Cox’s idea is to embrace Wet Seal’s California roots, since the brand was born in Newport Beach in 1962. Cox says the laid-back, California casual look is how teen girls want to dress today.
“So many of the cues that these girls are getting are from celebrities, musicians, bloggers,” she said. “They’re photographed by the paparazzi all over the place and a lot of times, that’s in L.A.”
Without warning, Cox sent those two styles to the Wet Seal store.
“We just shipped it out to the stores and let them put it on the racks and see what happens. Much to our great surprise, they blew out. They just flew,” Cox told Racked. “Those styles hit the store, when they sold out, it was like everybody got on board.”
Wet Seal now has a new website and logo to go along with its new Cali-themed, festival-style merchandise. In an effort to grab the attention of its 18-to-24-year old demographic, the brand’s spring campaign features dreamy shots of Southern California locales like Malibu State Beach, Palm Springs, and Zumba Beach.
In addition to completely re-branding the company, Cox noted that Wet Seal is focused on growing its plus-sized business, as well.
Brian Sozzi, a writer for The Street, commented on Wet Seal’s recent changes, “Two or three years ago, they were very focused on, I would say, a Bebe customer. You would buy one type of trashy outfit to go out to a club, and get alcohol all over it and head home,” he said. “[Now] these are clothes you can wear at the gym, at the office, and sitting down at Starbucks and you’ll feel very comfortable.”
Although Wet Seal didn’t reveal any financial information, Cox said her plan is to make the company as profitable as possible this year.
“We’re not going to be opening a lot of stores this year, this year is the year of transformation and investing in what we have. We are developing a new store design, and we plan to open more stores next year, and if there are advantageous locations that come our way and make sense for us, we will consider them,” she said.
[Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images]