Wet Seal

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Wet Seal, Inc.
Lorne's (1962–1990)
DefunctJanuary 27, 2017
(Retail stores only)
HeadquartersLos Angeles, California
Number of locations
Currently online only
Key people
CEO: Ramez Toubassy
ProductsApparel, Accessories, Footwear
ParentGordon Brothers

Wet Seal is an American fast fashion retailer headquartered in Los Angeles, California. The fast fashion pioneer sells trendy, affordable apparel, accessories, and footwear for young women of all sizes predominantly in their teens, twenties and thirties. The company was founded in Newport Beach, California, by Lorne Huycke in 1962 as "Lorne's". The "Wet Seal" name comes from a comment Huycke made during a fashion show commenting that a model wearing a bathing suit looked like a "wet seal".[1][2] The company was incorporated as Wet Seal in 1990.[3]



In 1995, Wet Seal acquired 237 Contempo Casuals stores from the Neiman Marcus Group. Contempo Casuals would continue to use its own name until 2001, when the remaining stores were converted into Wet Seal stores. The company then launched the Arden B. brand in November 1998 and changed most of the remaining Contempo Casual names to Arden B. In June 2010, the Blink by Wet Seal concept was announced.[4][5] By 2014, the company had 478 Wet Seal stores and 54 Arden B stores across 48 states and Puerto Rico. In 2014 Wet Seal announced that it would close all the Arden B stores by 2015.[6]

The Wet Seal, Inc. and its subsidiaries operated as a specialty retailer of apparel and accessory items for women in the United States. It operated three mall-based chains of retail stores under the Wet Seal, Arden B, and Blink by Wet Seal brands. The company's Wet Seal stores offered apparel and accessories for teenage girls. The Arden B. stores provided feminine, contemporary collections of fashion separates and accessories until 2015. Blink stores focused on denim products for the same teenage girl market as Wet Seal, but with store sizes of 1,600 square feet (150 m2) versus the 4,000 square feet (370 m2) of Wet Seal.[4] It also operated Web-based stores, which included www.wetseal.com that offered Wet Seal merchandise; and www.ardenb.com, which offers Arden B apparel and accessories. As of January 30, 2010, the company operated 504 retail stores in 47 states, including 424 Wet Seal stores and 80 Arden B stores. The Wet Seal, Inc. was founded in 1962 and is based in Foothill Ranch, California.

The chain made a failed attempt to purchase County Seat in 1996.[7]

Wet Seal typically served the same audience and competed with Forever 21, and Charlotte Russe.[8]

In 2013, Wet Seal laid off 35 employees, mostly at the headquarters due to competition from Forever 21 in order to save $3.8 million a year.[9]

In 2013, Wet Seal reached a $7.5 million settlement with minority plaintiffs who charged that the company directed managers to fire African American employees who they thought did not fit the company's brand image which is the "Armani look, white, blond hair and blue eyes."[10]

2015–17: Bankruptcy and liquidation[edit]

In January 2015, due to increased competition in the teen clothing sector, Wet Seal shuttered a number of stores despite previously indicating to employees that the outlets would stay open. Employees responded to this termination procedure by posting signs in the front windows outlining the way that Wet Seal management communicated the closures to staff and the relatively paltry compensation received.[11] Share price of the company's stock WTSL dropped to $0.06.[12]

On January 16, 2015, the company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Central District of California.[13][14]

On January 27, 2017, Business Insider and other news outlets reported that Wet Seal was closing all of its stores immediately and terminating all staff and employees,[15] part of an American retail phenomenon of store closures known as the retail apocalypse. The brand was acquired by Gordon Brothers.[16] It is now operating as an online-only retailer.

2017–present: Relaunch[edit]

On March 3, 2017, the Wet Seal brand was acquired by Gordon Brothers and relaunched in October 2017 as an online only platform.[17]

The new Wet Seal is an ultra-fast fashion business model, featuring new product drops every week and frequent lookbooks showcasing the latest trends and styles available on the site.

On June 4, 2018, Wet Seal launched its first collaboration, an apparel collection curated by You Tube ‘opposite twin’ sister superstars Niki and Gabi.


  1. ^ Rozhon, Tracie (September 3, 2004). "The Teenage Crush on Wet Seal Stores Is So Over". The New York Times. Retrieved August 14, 2011.
  2. ^ "The Wet Seal, Inc. Corporate Information". Retrieved May 21, 2007.
  3. ^ Barinka, Alex (August 11, 2012). "Wet Seal has attraction despite woes". The Orange County Register. Bloomberg News. p. Business 4.
  4. ^ a b Nguyen, Hang (June 26, 2010). "Wet Seal debuts teen clothing chain Blink". The Orange County Register. p. Business 3.
  5. ^ "The Wet Seal, Inc". wetsealinc.com. Retrieved 23 February 2015.
  6. ^ "Wet Seal to shutter Arden B stores". The Orange County Register. April 26, 2014. p. Business 1.
  7. ^ "Wet Seal offers to buy 508 County Seat stores". The New York Times. 13 December 1996. Retrieved 13 August 2011.
  8. ^ "Young Women's Clothing Brand Information". Retrieved 2011-12-15.
  9. ^ Southern California Public Radio. "Wet Seal posts disappointing same store sales". Southern California Public Radio.
  10. ^ Melanie Eversley, USA TODAY (9 May 2013). "Wet Seal settles bias suit with minority plaintiffs". USA TODAY. Retrieved 23 February 2015.
  11. ^ "Wet Seal Workers Reveal Ominous Signs The Company Was Imploding". Retrieved 2015-01-06.
  12. ^ "NASDAQ:WTSL". Retrieved 2015-01-06.
  13. ^ "Retailer Wet Seal Files for Chapter 11 to Stay Afloat - Fox Business". Fox Business. January 16, 2015. Retrieved January 16, 2015.
  14. ^ "Wet Seal Chapter 11 Voluntary Petition" (PDF). PacerMonitor. PacerMonitor. Retrieved 16 May 2016.
  15. ^ "Teen retailer Wet Seal is suddenly closing all of its stores". January 27, 2017. Retrieved January 27, 2017.
  16. ^ Branding firm Gordon Brothers snaps up Wet Seal for $3M
  17. ^ "Gordon Brothers to Acquire Wet Seal Brand and Related Intellectual Property". Retrieved 2018-06-27.

External links[edit]