Is Aime Leon Dore slipping?
Or are we just ready for something new?
I’m starting to lose the love for my favourite brand and I’m trying to figure out why.
Before we get to this, let’s revisit how Aime Leon Dore became mine and many others’ favourite brand.
From what I know, Aime(French for love) as it was originally called was just an idea that Teddy had been playing around with in the background while working his regular job in eyewear sales.
At the time, he formed a friendship with Ronnie Fieg (the owner of Kith) who was fast becoming one of the more commercially influential people in sneakers. Teddy and Ronnie were on a trip together in Paris when Teddy showed Ronnie his idea for the menswear brand. Ronnie posted a photo of an early Aime sweatshirt to his large instagram following. And said to Teddy “if this gets 500 likes, you know for certain he has something special on his hands.”
Quick sidebar because everyone is thinking it. Who are the 500 people+ liking this? I think this shows how influenced we are as a society by tastemakers who decide what’s cool and what’s not.
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They posted and waited. Sure enough, the post went better than expected and people suddenly started bombarding Ronnie’s inbox about where they could get the sweater. This was all Teddy needed to know and within two years in 2014, Aime Leon Dore was born. Here is a link to their fast collection.
Fast forward a bunch of years and the ALD following continued to grow. Every time they dropped a new teaser for a campaign, it was unlike anything any other brand was doing. With each lookbook that came out, my DM’s looked like this:
“This is insanely good.”
“They somehow just keep getting better and better.”
“How do they just seem to get it”
“I would wear all of it.”
All of these have been sent to and from me over the last 5 years as their collections have been released. There are certain connections I have on social media where we only speak whenever ALD has released a new collection.
These DM’s have slowly but surely dropped down to a handful, if that.
So what has happened and how did we get here?
I originally asked a community of similar ALD fans, “Do you still feel the same way about Aime Leon Dore as you did when you first discovered it?”
With nearly 400 responses this was the result.
This left me questioning more.
So I asked another question.
“Why do you think people are becoming slightly over Aime Leon Dore”
This time receiving nearly 700 answers across my networks and community.
The answers are pretty telling and I’m clearly not the only one who feels a certain way about ALD lately.
So how has ALD gone from the one that could do no wrong to the one that people are trying to move on from?
This is how I think we got here:
Since 2016 the art direction, product and styling was so on point. Dropping at least two collections per year (summer + winter). Nobody was coming close to doing what they were doing. ALD had a signature look, which separated them from the competition. You didn’t need to see their logo to know it was them.
Unfortunately, like all good things, this point of difference has disappeared. Big brands like Uniqlo & H&M were starting to take inspo. It wasn’t only the big brands taking insp, it seemed that every other independent streetwear / menswear brand globally were ripping off that clean aesthetic contrasted with those signature nostalgic notes that we all know and love from ALD. As the saying goes… Often imitated never duplicated… However, we are seeing that the copycats start to eat away at your brand as well. Every man and his dog in fashion seem to be selling the nostalgia-inspired lifestyle right now.
The partial sale to LVHM. This didn’t sit well with a lot of people. A lot of these people have never operated a business and are not taking into account financial security but this is how the world works. My Tottenham Hotspur is the 9th richest club in the world, I can’t fathom how they don’t spend more money even though they have $1b debt. I don’t care about the debt. Spend more and get better players to actually win. Selling to a major company like this is always going to be seen as ‘selling out’ even if it is fucking LVHM!
There is a plus to getting in bed with LVMH.
Benefits for ALD could be: improved global logistics resulting in better turnaround times. Better access to factories results in better products. LVHM Board members who without a doubt would be the best at what they do in the world, to guide the brand as it expands. ALD fans need to feel these benefits for them not to think negatively of the sale to LVMH.
The pricing continues to go up as more and more are made in China. I don’t believe that China = bad quality. For example, Chinese factories often have been doing this for a long time and they deal with clients all over the world who want certain details or features. When I tried to manufacture in Melbourne, there were some things that were simply not possible given they don’t have enough clients to have the equipment needed. China more often than not does = cheaper pricing though. Hopefully, ALD is not at the point where they are numbers driven but as a consumer, it's starting to feel like it. Some of the product quality is really poor and even with the brand attached, is not worth the price.
They have evolved in the fact they are now in London and they produce bigger collections but they have plateaued on the creative front. The first 7 or so years, anytime a collection dropped, it was different and it was always an improvement. Each collection that dropped previously felt like they improved by 10x - even though we didn’t think it was possible. Perhaps they are at the creative peak and can’t get any better? Or perhaps it has to do with my next point.
Teddy Santis has become the Global Creative Director for New Balance Made in NY. This makes complete sense from his personal perspective and also NB’s. But unfortunately, there don’t appear to be any real ALD exclusives, minus some colourways. 4 years ago, the 550s would only be ALDs. Anybody wearing them, you’d know they know what’s up. Nowadays it seems that every early 20s something girl is wearing them. Why pay an extra $80(or so) for an ALD tag when NB will probably drop the exact same shoe in a few months
This extra role means his creativity is being stretched. While I don’t personally know Teddy, I do know as a creative, it’s hard to wear so many hats at the very top across multiple brands without these brands starting to look the same. His mind must be in multiple places which is always going to impact his brand. New Balance Made in New York is starting to look a lot like Aime Leon Dore. Yes, this may be Teddy's signature look but this also takes away from his brand, Aime Leon Dore.
So what is the future for Aime Leon Dore? Are they on their way to becoming the next Ralph Lauren as questioned here by Highsnobiety? Or do they find a way to continue paving their own lane but expand into a more global brand?
If I could say I don’t know, I would. But you probably don’t want to read 1000 words for that to be my answer. So let’s try.
My thoughts are that it's somewhere in the middle. Had Teddy not sold a portion of the brand to the LVMH group, I would say he would have continued to keep it NY focussed. They would have opened pop-ups here and there around the world but kept the store as a big reason for visiting NY. I don’t know if a permanent London store would have been on the cards. I don’t know the numbers of the business and how much more money is going to be made with the UK expansion to have a worthwhile opinion. The way luxury brands have become global sensations but stay true to their Parisian roots is what I think happens for ALD and Queens. I’d love it if everything was made in NY but it seems more and more is getting made in China and doing so would probably price me out of wearing them. My hope is that ALD find a way to expand and reach new customers but continues to evolve, not forgetting how they got to this point in the first place. I would love to see a more distinct difference between New Balance and Aime Leon Dore but I don’t think we see this for a couple of years.
Let it be known that I’m writing this from a place of love and as somebody who is as emotionally invested in a clothing brand that you can be. I’ll keep wearing the product I have but I’m not overly sure I’ll buy anything more than the staples of t-shirts and hoodies, moving forward.
I’m hoping Teddy and ALD continue to do new things and somehow keep the cool factor of the brand without appearing to “sell out” - which often comes along with global expansion.
The crown still belongs to Aime Leon Dore. The king isn’t dead but it’s there for the taking. Who will be next is the million-dollar question that I’m trying to figure out. If you have an idea of who it will be, let me know.
As always there is a Brand Learning:
1 - Don’t be another version of ALD. Use your campaigns to be creative. I shouldn’t be able to swap in and out your campaign photos with your competitors’ photos and not really notice a difference. If you always want to be seen as a poor mans Aime Leon Dore, keep doing this but if you want to be different, bigger and even better, find your own style and lane.
2 - Have a pricing strategy. I’ve worked with many brands that price products without rhyme or reason. If you are using it as a way to position your brand as more elevated, make sure the quality matches. You will struggle to retain customers if you go this route.
As always, thanks for reading, especially if you made it this far - this was a long one.
Who do you think is the next Aime Leon Dore? Let me know in the comments.