From its trend-proof classic shaker-stitch sweater and buttoned Pointelle Henley pullover to its latest Ariel: Honeycomb sweater coat and Rumi: Ombre V-neck cardigan, 525 is redefining modern knitwear by returning to its roots – established 40 years ago.
When asked how 525 has evolved in that time, Bo Guo, CEO at NYC Alliance, the parent company behind the renowned knitwear brand, said 525 started with basics — “and I hesitate to even use that word because it really belies what we do so well, delved into chasing-trends, and now we’re getting back to our roots, which are grounded in timeless, cotton knitwear.”
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Guo said throughout brand’s journey “we have kept pace with technology and remained on the cusp of the latest fabrications to ensure we never rest on our laurels or fall behind.”
Indeed, it is this commitment to innovation as well as a focus on offering the highest-quality knitwear that has kept 525 customers coming back for more.
“Our customer knows us for our commitment to quality, which has never wavered over the brand’s four decades in business,” Guo said, noting that 525 began with a focus “on impeccably made cotton knits that were designed to withstand the test of time. Like most brands, we have not been immune to testing-out the trends, so when we decided to expand into cashmere and other yarns, we were committed to getting it right.”
Regarding the modern knitwear market, Guo said, “For better or (more often) for worse, the knitwear market is flooded. Not only our customers, but all consumers, are thinking more about what they buy and buying items that will last, both in terms of quality/durability but also in terms of being trend-proof.”
Guo said this starts from the ground-up “by making sure that we evolve with the times, constantly reviewing the practices and technology employed in our factories as well as developments in textiles. It also means maintaining a rapport with our customers and retail partners and our design teams so that we can best serve them.”
As the brand approached its 40th anniversary, Guo said the company did a lot of reflecting, which included surveying many of its long-term customers. “What we discovered is that we need not try to be all things to all consumers,” Guo explained. “525’s strong design heritage means we need not chase fleeting trends, therefore the best way we can continue to serve our customer is by providing a timeless, well-crafted, and well-priced foundation upon which they can add the flourishes of their own personal style.”
The exercise of reflection and brand soul-searching is essential to 525’s success. And so is recognizing when to embrace new ideas and when to let things go. Transparency is also extremely important in how 525 operates.
“I truly believe a great idea can come from anywhere, so the communication lines are always open, both internally and with our retail partners and customers,” the CEO said. “Innovation needn’t be a radical shift, but rather assessing where there is room for improvement and finding a way to make it happen, whether that’s developing a more durable yarn, a more efficient means of knitting, or tweaking a design to better suit a wider range of sizes/figures or to be more in-line with the prevailing silhouettes of any given time.”
As it continues to innovate and reposition the brand in the market, 525 is also expanding business on its website. Guo said the brand is in the process of re-designing the website experience “to better meet our customer’s needs.” Guo also said retail partners such as Shopbop and Revolve “have been key in introducing our knitwear to a younger demographic.”
“That said, we really see our offerings as ageless and we love seeing how our diverse customer base brings our designs to life,” Guo said, adding that 525 values its relationships with independently owned boutiques. “In a market that is now flooded with ‘elevated basics,’ being able to see our products (and their unparalleled quality) in-person is so beneficial. Coupled with 525’s attractive price point, the brand really can’t be beat.”
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