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Carhartt WIP: Crossing the Pond

Carhartt WIP Forever

The story of Carhartt WIP is one of Europe’s fascination with an American brand.

Since 1880:

The brand’s history originally goes back to 1880, when Hamilton Carhartt took on the idea of fitting workers out in some durable attire. Eventually, it would take the inevitable route of garnering interest from countries abroad. Carhartt’s original roots in hard-working cities such as Dearborn and Detroit, Michigan, seem pretty distant when compared to the brand’s more recent demographic.

Many people might not be aware of Carhartt WIP as a single entity, but it’s more or less a marriage between two retail forces. In 1989, European interest in the brand came to a head and resulted in the company’s first real entrance into the continent. It had already achieved something of a prominent position in its demographic back home in the States, but there seemed to be even greater potential within youth culture on the other side of the pond. That market opportunity was spotted by Edwin Faeh, who founded Work In Progress. What started off initially as a limited licensing agreement would turn into Carhartt’s most major non-US decision as a brand. A significant part of that had to do with the deal’s timing.

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Europe and the US: One world

In 1989 Europe’s relationship with hip hop was flourishing, acting almost in an inverse proportion with a general respect for authority. One of the most memorable moments in Carhartt WIP’s history was the brand’s Hackney, East London, store being robbed by a group of rioters back in 2011. None of the store’s employees were injured, and were in fact warned to leave the premises by rioters before the incident took place. Between its origins and that pivotal moment in 2011, Carhartt WIP grew along with Europe’s obsession.

The yellow C, long the most popular association with the brand, travelled well. It was recognizable through most major metropolitan sectors of Europe and seemed only to grow. The durable pants donned by construction workers and engineers alike became the cargo pairs that rappers, including Danny Brown, opted for. Skateboarders loved the several hoodies and pullovers that now seem common in skateboarding around the world. The list goes on.

You can even see the transformation the brand has gone through with a cursory look at some of its latest offerings. From the Chase Sweat shirt to the Women’s Salinac Shirt, you can plainly see the brand’s early popularity in the States. Look even closer, and you’ll spot the reason why Carhartt WIP isn’t going anywhere.

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