SWEDISH-owned clothing company Gant plans to grow sales and raise its brand recognition in SA, says CEO Patrik Nilsson.

The clothing brand, which has its origins on the US east coast and was bought by Swedish holding company Maus Frères in 2006, has 28 stores in SA. It staged a global relaunch last week.

“Our experience (in SA) has been great,” Mr Nilsson said in an e-mail interview.

“We have been growing steadily but slowly and we have a lot of loyal customers. That’s always a great start for growing.”

Nilsson said the brand relaunched “from collections to marketing to cater to new audiences”, and was looking at “a target audience that is hard working, travelling and living busy cosmopolitan lives … Basically, our consumers told us to leave the beach and hit the city. The consumer is boss.”

The new collections, showcased on Thursday at the New York Fashion Week, will be available in stores and online in January next year, he said.

The relaunch also involved a move away from models to using Ivy League graduates to showcase the clothing. “These impressive people share our Ivy League background as well as our values — they are passionate, authentic and innovative in their specific fields,” said Nilsson. “

Gant clothing was first based in New Haven, US in 1949, growing out of shirt making by Russian immigrant Bernard Gantmacher. The shirts became popular at Yale University in the 1960s. Yale Daily News on Wednesday reported the relaunch.

Mr Nilsson said the people living in the modern world, facing financial crises and war, wanted “other values and stories than the beautiful surface that most lifestyle brands are showing.” This was why Gant had chosen these graduates, an abstract painter, a poet, a nonprofit founder, a botanist and a digital entrepreneur, to showcase its apparel.

“We have decided to tell their stories and promote their causes, and in that we also tell our own story.

“We have chosen to collaborate with people who are using their knowledge to improve the lives of others, not themselves in the first place.”

Gant has three lines and they would remain.