The story of how it all began…
Seattle’s favorite retail shop Zebra Club is recognized as a leader within the apparel industry because it continues to offer innovative, quality products and has the ability to adapt and remain nimble in an ever changing market.
Seattle, WA September 8, 2010- Fashion apparel store Zebra Club is celebrating its 25th year anniversary and is hosting a special reception at the flagship store in downtown Seattle on Friday, September 17, bringing ownership, past and current employees together for the very first time. Guests will commemorate the brand by honoring those who helped launch the unique Zebra Club platform and maintain its leadership role within the apparel industry.
In the early 80’s three brothers, Raj Shah, Amit Shah and Akhil Shah were the driving force behind the urban contemporary streetwear market and had much success with the International News and Shah Safari brands.
The Shah brothers, along with their late partner Mike Alesko, wanted to develop a new retail concept that would serve as a real time lab for other retailers. Specifically they wanted to sell various clothing brands in the same store, side-by-side, in order to inspire healthy competition and spur creativity among both designers and consumers. They also wanted to extend the clothing’s image and appeal outward, on to its physical retail space, by influencing physical and mental characteristics such as the music, interior design and sales associates. No one in the U.S. had introduced this concept before so they named it atmosphere retail. With the help of Alesko, the Shah brothers launched Zebra Club in 1985.
“I wrote the first story on Zebra Club and you can’t write its history without mentioning Mike Alesko. He understood what was cool and not in a pretentious way. Fashion, especially young fashion, is fickle, so the fact that Zebra Club is still relevant and remains a leader in the young fashion retail industry is just a remarkable achievement,” says Robert Spector, author and speaker on world-class customer service and former DNR reporter covering the young men’s fashion industry.
Zebra Club became a rage with consumers. The Shah brothers didn’t quite expect the response, as the flagship store was located in downtown Seattle on 1st Avenue, which was a tough neighborhood at the time. They created Zebra Club logo products like sweatshirts and carried Swatch watches, which became a huge hit with high school and college students. Zebra Club was the first fashion retail store to put an espresso cart right outside of their store. The burger joint in the back and the DJ spinning records also appealed to its customers.
“When I was 17 I walked into the Zebra Club store and I thought, ‘Wow, this is the coolest place that any kid could ever work!’ Nobody had ever done anything like this before. If you were a part of Zebra Club, you knew you were part of the hottest thing going on in the country,” says Fashionpreneur and founder of Enyce & Parish Nation Tony Shellman.
In the first couple of years Zebra Club was open it attracted almost all the major retailers and their CEO’S who would fly in to see the concept. Some would even fly over in their private jets. The atmosphere retail concept was written up in over 100 magazines worldwide.
“We funded the atmosphere retail concept through Zebra Club as way of thanking the industry for its support over the years, but also following our belief that being successful in the apparel industry requires a company to invest in new ideas and continuously evolve,” says CEO of Shah Safari and owner of Zebra Club Raj Shah.”
The Shah brothers provide their management team with the passion, vision and creative freedom to bring into being the Zebra Club brand as it’s seen today. Their leadership style is a lot like the products in the store: quick paced and always evolving. It’s durable, optimistic and full of hope. Today, Zebra Club continues to be a favorite for designers and new brands that are looking to launch new products.
After 25 years the Zebra Club business model has an entrepreneurship feeling because there’s a certain pride that comes along with the brand. The renowned Z logo carries a legacy and it’s something employees respect. Current sales associates don’t follow trends, but rather anticipate them by focusing on a customer’s individual style and personal narrative. Zebra Club is more than just a store, but supports identities and as a result, customers feel emotionally connected. The store is about celebrating authenticity.
“The Shah brothers understand that it’s all about change. In order to be an innovator you’re constantly trying to reinvent and that’s why Zebra Club has stayed relevant. Today it’s still one of the hippest, coolest stores,” says Shellman.
The in-store VIP reception will take place on Friday, Sept. 17 2010 from 6-9:30 p.m. with music by DJ Mary Mar of Lost Boyz and an after party at Seattle’s See Sound Lounge.
About Zebra Club
Zebra Club is a cutting-edge retail store offering fashionable clothing and accessories for today’s men and women. Launched in 1985 under International News, Inc., it was the first store in the U.S. to introduce the concept of atmosphere retail within the fashion industry.
Photos & text Copyright Zebra Club.