Style Sense: Bivouac

. April 1, 2015.

Ann Arbor fashion lovers know: One of the best places to shop top trends is Bivouac. What they may not know is that Bivouac opened in 1971 as a family owned army surplus store. 

Before jet-setting to Las Vegas for an apparel tradeshow, Ed Davidson (owner), his son AJ (vice president), and Lisa Weiss (women’s fashion buyer) sat down with Current to discuss how the store has changed over time and what trends we can expect this spring. 

From surplus to sartorial, how has the store progressed fashion-wise over the years?

Ed: In the beginning the demand was surplus, itwas post-war—and this predates The North Face. It really developed from the outdoor industry. We were transitioning to outdoor stuff, then we moved into jeans. What we found is a lot of outdoor stores blended women’s and men’s, but we wanted to define ours. We took another piece of real estate to accommodate more merchandise, and to make the store continuous. We began male-based and then Lisa came in 1983 from New York to start women’s. We jumped into “trendier” when AJ came on board.

What do you think sets you apart from other clothing stores in the area?

Ed: It’s not uncommon for people to buy a pair of jeans, walk through the archway into the next section, buy a down jacket and then go to our shoe department and buy a pair of Sorel boots—now they’ve completed an outfit.

Lisa: We came up with a motto: Bivouac can outfit your life. You can go on a trek, you can go to a game, you can go out to dinner—there is something for every aspect of your life. 

To what do you credit your success?

AJ: We are really aware of our customer, from the student, to the young professional, to the mother or father.

Lisa: We start from a low price point, so it appeals to everyone. And we can fit a woman, not just a student. When you’re in a college town you have to come up with something that’s going to appeal to everyone. 

The range of your clientele is impressive. How do you manage to cater to everyone? Are there overlapping trends or is it a matter of quality winning out?

AJ: We carry a huge assortment of brands and styles to suit all ages and body types. Some items overlap across the board, along with some brands. Within most brands, there is something for everyone. Within a denim line, there are relaxed, skinny, and boyfriend fits,  straight legs, etc….a fit for everyone, and a price point for everyone, from under $100, to over $200. Yes, some are meant for a younger customer, and some for a more mature customer.  But, the bottom line: there is something for everyone, for every occasion, and for every climate. 

Trends for Spring?

AJ: Even men’s premium denim is going to a stretchy fit. They’re going to slimmer fits, it feels more like a sweatpant, and it’s a soft denim. There are always tons of trends on the East and West Coast–my customer is a basic Midwest guy who wears jeans and a t-shirt, jeans and a polo, jeans and a button down. You can wear these three combinations to almost anything in Ann Arbor. What is trending? Brighter button downs, more colors.   

Bivouac, 336 S. State St.
Ann Arbor. (877) 846-8248

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