Dressed for Success: Crate Denim
LOS ANGELES - There are few that would deny that the apparel business is one of the most competitive and vexing industry fields of endeavor.
Fads give way to trends, and vice versa, on an almost daily basis as new styles and designs appear and then vanish only to resurface sometimes decades later sending yet another generation of creative, fashion-conscious designers and trend-setters off into still unexplored territory.
But, no matter what new trend, some old rules still apply - a quality product and a connection with the customer will go a long way in insuring a future in an increasingly competitive, high-pressure game.
"The beauty of our business is that everyone is looking for a good pair of jeans," said Chad Hilton, a partner in Crate Denim, a small Los Angeles-based apparel company specializing in medium and high-end, "limited-edition" jeans.
Crate "delivers a product that is better thought out, crafted better, and uses higher end material than pants costing three times as much. Every last stitch is meticulously thought out and we like keeping a ceiling on our distribution," he said.
"It is very important to me that we only are sold in the right stores and reaching the proper consumer," alluding to a recently completed trip that took him and business partner Nate White to New York for a strategy session with their new US East Coast representative.
The small company, founded just over a year ago, is already making a name for itself, having signed deals with several large department stores and a number of smaller specialty stores in the US west and Midwest.
"With any marketing campaign you have to know your consumer," said Hilton. "We know our consumer so well because we are the consumer. We are the people that love quality and craftsmanship in clothing, but don't want to pay $200 for a pair of jeans. Luckily, we also know how to reach that customer."
White is an accomplished guitarist and songwriter with several years of experience in retail snowboard and apparel marketing and sales, while Hilton has a heavy background mix of retail buying and industrial design.
"At 21 I got a job for a watch company doing design work and strategic marketing. I was able to wear a lot of hats in that company which obviously is a huge bonus in starting any business on your own. I actually owe those guys a lot," said Hilton.
Hilton and White met socially and, off the cuff, a discussion of their similar backgrounds and interests led to the decision to form Crate, which was founded to fill what Hilton calls "a void" in the denim market.
"We decided to fill that void with a product that is built with high-end materials and high-end appointments?one we can offer in mid range prices."
The combination of experience, Hilton said, "is an odd one, but it lends nicely to what we do now."
Crate's original business plan called for the company to source all of its material domestically, but "the demands of our washes and vintage looking fabrics led us to source overseas," he says.
According to Hilton, all new jeans designs are hand crafted in the company's design studio in Los Angeles.
"Once the jean has been finalized we hand cut the patterns and personally travel to one of our three factories to dictate wash treatment, sew technique, and finishing details," said Hilton. "All production samples are made while we are at the factory so that we can perfect all production details."
Future plans call for the company "to continue to push production demands towards improving the quality of our product while establishing brand loyalty in our specified demographic."
Hilton calls the plan growing the company "organically."
"The beauty of our business is that everyone is looking for a good pair of jeans," he said. "If we continue to make them, consumers will continue to find them. Also we want to work on return customers, nothing is more flattering to a company than a return customer."
And those customers are everywhere.
The company is seriously eyeing both Latin America and Asia for future expansion as both regions, Hilton said, have "the most educated overseas denim consumers."
There is "a lot of room for growth with those markets and the distribution fits with the size of Crate."
"The uniqueness of Crate," he says, "comes down to the dedication to personalize. Hand written notes placed in the pocket of every pair of jeans we produce, using friends and family in catalogs instead of models. We have a very distinct down home feeling because we are very down home as a company."
So, what is Crate Denim's secret for success - local and global?
"Producing the best clothing in the market at any price point," said Hilton."I think by doing that we'll be fine."
1855 Industrial Avenue, No. 107
Los Angeles, CA 90021 USA
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