10 minutes is all you have to make an impression when you’re selling denim samples to a retail buyer.
At Brand on the Run ®, however, we had all night.
John Ryder, the man behind many a jeans trend shared stories of his time working behind the scenes with an iconic wardrobe essential. It is difficult to find a garment as widely embraced, worn and loved the world over. From factory to boardroom, if you’re not wearing jeans there’s probably something wrong with you – and that’s mainly John’s fault. Flared, stonewashed, sandblasted, ripped, distressed… he’s seen them all and produced them all.
Although there are thousands of jeans brands in the market today, when John started working with denim in the 1970s, three names controlled the whole market – Levi’s, Lee, Wrangler. It took one ad, the Levi’s 501 ‘Laundrette’ to launch a retail monster… and Jeremy Clarkson to bring it crashing down. In 1998 the ‘Clarkson effect’ was allegedly blamed in a clothing industry report for causing a 14% drop in jeans sales. Kids saw a pot belly hanging over the top of some jeans and decided that “they do not want to look like their dads”.
Levi’s seemingly laid off 6,000 staff and went back to the drawing board before devising ‘twisted’ seam jeans designed specifically to look bad on older, loud, obnoxious, beer-bellied, pigs. And, ahem, on some motoring journalists.
Two things happened to reverse a declining sales trend.
Firstly, skinny jeans. Two women spotted the opportunity for a style more flattering to the female form. Their share of the market rocketed, aided and abetted by jeans-clad celebrities re-establishing denim’s “cool”. Secondly, the High Street, and grocery chains in particular, started to sell jeans priced at less than box of cabbages. John had a hand in both trends and his behind-the-scenes insights into such a familiar industry were exactly what Brand on the Run® is all about – alternative views that provide new sources of inspiration.
Brands (generally) can learn a lot from jeans (specifically). They can be comfortable, durable and easy. They can be sexy and cool. They aren’t complicated. They reflect us and the life we’ve had in them. Above all, they change with time. Worth considering before you pull on your threadbare B2B Falmers in the vain hope that one size fits all.
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