Tom Cridland, founder of his own eponymous brand, speaks to Drapers about his business beginnings and celebrity fans.
Tom Cridland set up his eponymously named brand in 2014 with his girlfriend Debs Marx, focusing on sustainability and timelessness. It creates products such as the 30 Year T-shirt (£29 retail) and the 30 Year Jacket (£199 retail), which are designed to last and have a 30-year guarantee on each item. The brand has been worn by celebrities such as Leonardo Di Caprio and Kendrick Lamar, and is in the process of launching into its first department store, although details are currently under wraps. Drapers spoke to Cridland to find out more about the brand’s journey so far.
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What’s your background? How did you come to set up the business?
I went to the University of Bristol, which is where I met Debs, my girlfriend and business partner. I loved my time at Bristol. I only scraped a 2:1 but I’ve made friends who will be with me for life and grew up a lot.
I always wanted to do something entrepreneurial, and while doing my finals, I developed the idea for a brand specialising only in the perfect pair of trousers. I put together a business plan and forecasts and made an application for a government start-up loan. In January 2014, following a Dragons’ Den-style presentation to a panel, I received £6,000 in funding and the rest is history.
What were some of the challenges you faced when you started out?
Having an extremely limited amount of start-up funding meant that marketing was a big challenge. We couldn’t even afford our first stock order, and had to run a pre-order sale to do so – Facebook Ads and pay-per-click ads were totally out of reach. This was very good grounding for us because we had to focus on building a brand, teaching ourselves PR and learning that you have to knock on doors to be successful. Not everyone is going to be supportive or accommodating of your vision.
Why is sustainability a focus for you?
We want Tom Cridland to be invoke a bygone era when clothing was made with exquisite care and kept for longer. We saw a gap in the market to create a brand that is the antidote to fast fashion.
Do you think more retailers are looking at sustainability now?
I think more brands are coming along that not only have an environmentally conscious ethos but also design good looking clothing. A brand is more than just clothing. It should represent a set of ideals, and there is a growing market for garments that represent an attitude to fashion that is not disposable.
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What are some of the highlights from running the business so far?
We have made clothing for the likes of Leonardo DiCaprio, Ben Stiller, Stephen Fry, Brandon Flowers, Robbie Williams, Daniel Craig, Neil Young, Miley Cyrus and Kendrick Lamar. We were also a finalist this year in Fortune’s “Cool Companies” competition and listed on sustainability guide Sustainia100.
Where do you hope to take the brand from here?
We’ve just launched a The Real Music Collection, a campaign with several big-name musicians in aid of the charity Help Musicians. Quickly after that we’ll be releasing Half-Century Jeans, designed ot last for 50 years. Then, in early 2018, our first collection of womenswear will drop.
Whom in the industry do you admire?
[Gucci creative director] Alessandro Michele.
What’s the best piece of business advice you’ve received?
Most of the advice from my dad, who is my business mentor, and my mum, who kindly does my accounts for me! Above all, when running an independent brand and business, you’ve got to be careful with the money and budget meticulously.
Favourite clothing brand
Favourite places to shop
Online, but in terms of bricks-and-mortar, I find Jermyn Street difficult to beat. I also enjoy Bicester Village and Woodbury Common in New Jersey
Last fashion purchase
Two pairs of Bobbies driving shoes
My business partner and girlfriend, Debs, and I took my family to Sardinia to celebrate my Dad’s 60th
Last book you read
The 4-Hour Work Week by Timothy Ferriss
Last film you watched
I’ve been watching Narcos season 3 and the latest weekly episodes of Curb Your Enthusiasm, so haven’t taken in too many films
Starting the Tom Cridland brand was my first-ever job
I love playing drums and singing for my band, The Tomicks, so that’s a dream job
How you spend the weekend
Spending time with family and friends, going to a gig, out to eat, travelling, writing or playing with my band, listening to music and organising my record collection