The rise and fall of Lucky Brand, the once-beloved mall brand

Lucky Brand style

Lucky Brand style

David Becker/Getty Images

  • Lucky Brand filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on Friday due in response to woes from the coronavirus pandemic and several years of sluggish sales. 
  • However, Lucky Brand was once a go-to destination for trendy denim and bohemian chic fashion in the 1990s and early aughts, beloved by celebrities and mall shoppers alike. 
  • We took a look at the rise and fall of Lucky Brand, on the heels of its expected sale to SPARC Group — the owner of brands like Nautica and Aeropostale — and the announcement that it will shutter 13 stores.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Lucky Brand just filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, but in the 1990s and early aughts, the mall brand thrived as a go-to destination for stylish denim and bohemian chic looks. 

Started in 1990 in Los Angeles by Barry Perlman and Gene Montesano, Lucky Brand was founded with the aim to sell “great-fitting, vintage-inspired jeans,” according to the company. The duo looked to a wide range of influences to craft its unique denim looks in a variety of washes and with rips, tears, and hardware that set it apart from its competitors. 

“Our jeans are made for the free-thinker, the artist, the dreamer; they’re made to dance, work, run, jump, play and rock ‘n’ roll (just like you),” Lucky Brand states on its website. “Our inspiration doesn’t just come from the rugged workwear of denim pioneers, but from the free spirit and laid-back lifestyle of our Southern California roots.”

Though the company took off through the first decade of the new millennium, it struggled to evolve its style to keep up with fickle consumer demand and struggled through the Great Recession. Executive leadership changes also marred the brand as it fought an uphill battle to revitalize and resonate with shoppers amid the ongoing retail apocalypse. 

Now, the brand is the latest to feel the strain of the coronavirus, and in turn, announced it will immediately close 13 stores as part of its bankruptcy filing. As the company prepares to finalize its expected sale to SPARC Group — the owner of brands like Nautica and Aeropostale — we took a closer look at the denim darling’s rise and fall over the years. 

Lucky Brand was founded in 1990 in Los Angeles by Barry Perlman and Gene Montesano.

Lucky Brand founders

Barry Perlman (left) and Gene Montesano (right) at a Lucky Brand event in 2006.

Patrick McMullan/Getty Images

“We gave them their distinctively Lucky look by literally putting them through the wringer — ripping, fraying, sanding, patching and washing by hand — to give them true character and soul,” the Lucky website states. “Then, we added authentic hardware, personalized touches and playful details, and an American legend was born.”

Lucky Brand belts

Angela Weiss/WireImage/Getty Images

Over the next decade, Lucky Brand’s star grew, and by the early aughts it was a staple of the American mall.

Lucky Brand store

Josh Brasted/Getty Images

NEW ORLEANS, LA – DECEMBER 03: Lucky Brand is decorated for Christmas on December 3, 2014 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Josh Brasted/Getty Images)

However, as the decade came to a close, the brand started to lose its luster and fall out of favor with customers.

Lucky Brand

Getty/Jeff Greenberg

In response, Lucky Brand looked to diversify its business model by opening outlet stores and selling to off-price stores and department stores.

Lucky Brand Outlet

Jeffrey Greenberg/Universal Images Group/Getty Images

The entrance to Lucky Brand Jeans Outlet Store at the Outlets in Saint Augustine in Florida. (Photo by: Jeffrey Greenberg/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

DeMattei started by revamping window and in-store displays, which he felt had previously been “hard to shop.”

Lucky Brand Jeans

Lisa G./Yelp

“It’s disciplined merchandising,” DeMattei told Women’s Wear Daily in 2010. “You have to be strong, efficient and more focused.”

Source: WWD

He also focused on reducing early aughts style staples like graphic T-shirts and instead on bolstering Lucky’s women’s fashion.

Lucky Brand style

David Becker/Getty Images

Source: WWD

DeMattei even shifted some denim manufacturing overseas despite Lucky Brand’s tradition of being an American-made company.

Lucky Brand

D Dipasupil/Getty Images for Vogue/Lucky Brand

Source: WWD

Still, in the following years, Lucky found itself plagued with sluggish sales like many of its fellow mall brand peers thanks to The Great Recession and later, the rise of e-commerce which threatened the place of the American mall.

Lucky Brand sale

Paul Sakuma/AP Photo

Lucky Brand found itself floundering even further in 2020 with the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, which let to shuttered stores and plummeting sales.

Lucky Brand fashion week

Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images

For now, the future of Lucky Brand — like many other traditional retailers at this time — remains to be seen.

Lucky Brand sign 2

Robin Marchant/Getty Images

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