Everybody wants to be in the jeans business. It seems so easy – five pockets, stitching on the back, an interesting wash and you’re all set.
It’s like making a Cadillac; all you have to do is introduce a new one every year with a few changes, right?
Not quite. I have been in the business for more than a quarter of a century, building brands like Lucky Jeans, introducing the concept of premium denim to the US market with 7 For All Mankind and, since 2003, building my own Los Angeles label, Citizens of Humanity.
My experience has taught me that you need to be in it for the love of the industry and the product and you cannot expect overnight success. You can’t even take advantage of every lucky break until you are certain of the direction you want your brand to take, and only once you’ve established that identity can yougrow.
Design inspiration can come from so many different sources – conversations, trips, different cultures, books and movies. Every month I go to flea markets, particularly the Rose Bowl and City College in Pasadena, California. The flea market acts as a library of denim, where I can see old styles and how they were made.
Jeans are iconic. If you want to have a place in their history and future, it’s not sufficient to have a good fit and an interesting wash. You need to bring more to the product, such as new designs and details. You have to think about the next innovation. Your identity as a person and a company is important, so it is equally important that they should not be predictable or boring. You have to renew yourself, because what the customer is looking for is change.
Jerome Dahan is creative director of denim label Citizens of Humanity