I caught up recently with marketing guru and retail icon Freddie Stollmack, president of Weatherproof Garment Company and a dedicated East Ender. Last year Stollmack caused quite a ruckus when he had a billboard installed on Times Square of President Obama wearing a Weatherproof jacket on his visit to the Great Wall of China. It was quite a powerful advertisement. The only hitch was, the photo was licensed by the Associated Press and the White House wasn’t too keen on having the President’s name and likeness used for commercial purposes.
The ad campaign created quite a dustup at the time (what doesn’t these days), with headlines like these: “Fur Flies for Using Obama in Ad,” “Obama Hot Under the Collar Over Jacket Ad” and my favorite, “Obama Swag Killed in Times Square.” Boy, advertising can be a rough business. But not everyone grumbled, in fact, a whole lot of people thought that Stollmack had struck gold. One media blogger wrote: “Kudos to Weatherproof Garment and their ad agency for coming up with this bold idea. This has never been done before. They get the benefit of using the face of the most popular man in the world to promote their merchandise, and they didn’t have to pay him or his agent one cent.” [expand]
This month Stollmack will be opening his first 32° Weatherproof® store in Soho. “The new flagship will be influenced by the popular lululemon athletica stores—a shopping experience that alludes to a specific lifestyle. This flagship will also revolutionize retailing by creating a “date night” at the store on Thursdays; shopping will take on a new meaning with cocktails, conversation and a “leave your Blackberry at the door” policy. “Like-minded sports enthusiasts will actually have the experience of talking to each other, rather than texting,” according to Allen Cohen, the company’s spokesman.
Weatherproof® is planning a big 32° retail event at Outdoors of Amagansett in October to coincide with the Hamptons International Film Festival.
I took the opportunity to find out what Stollmack has up his sleeve:
1. What’s your favorite activity in the Hamptons? Relaxing on the beach at Louse Point on late afternoons.
2. What’s your favorite place to go in the Hamptons? The movie house in Sag Harbor and dinner at Dave’s Grill in Montauk.
3. Describe your best East End memory. Horseback riding at Deep Hollow Dude Ranch in 1950, and swimming at the original Surf Club in Montauk from 1948 until it closed.
4. Who would be your dream spokesperson for Weatherproof and why? There are two dreams that have both come to fruition: President Obama, when seen wearing a Weatherproof® jacket at the Great Wall of China, and our recent signing of former New York Yankee, Andy Pettitte, which goes hand-in-hand with our sponsorship of the Yankees.
5. What one person has had the most influence in your life and why? There are two people who have influenced me: Ralph Lauren, because he believes strongly in his intuition, and the founder of Nautica, David Chu, who’s key to success is “focus, focus, focus.”
6. Some say your Obama campaign was genius and others were critical, what are your thoughts about it now? As with all politics today, half the population has one opinion and the other half has another. We think President Obama, having chosen (and by no means endorsed) the Weatherproof® jacket, speaks a lot for the value of our product.
7. What’s the secret to your marketing savvy? Given the clutter in advertising today, we have chosen to take contrarian viewpoints. So if the market is going left…we go right.
8. Your SoHo flagship 32 degrees Weatherproof store opens in September. What are you most excited about? I’m most excited about the focus of the store and its theme. The focus being moderately priced, casual technical apparel under the Weatherproof® 32° Heat label. The theme of the store revolves around “date night” on Thursdays…more details coming.
9. We know 32 degrees is the freezing mark, but why not “20 below?” How did you come up with the idea of 32 degrees? Given our national and international distribution, temperatures vary widely and we thought 32° would be universally recognized.
10. Describe a typical woman who wears Weatherproof apparel. Everyone from my granddaughter to my wife to my mother-in-law.
11. Describe a typical man. Everyone from my grandson to my son to myself.
12. What Weatherproof coat can you envision Dan Rattiner wearing? Handsome as he is, I can easily see him in one of our 32° Heat casual tech jacket or the one President Obama wore at the Great Wall of China.