With Ben Sherman’s former chief executive on board, the ethical denim brand is ready for overseas expansion.
Monkee Genes founder Phil Wildbore is an outspoken, self-confessed jeans anorak intent on bringing ethics and credibility to the young fashion market via the denim brand he started in 2006.
Best recognised for its banana and monkey logo, the brand’s bright colourways and its ethical slogan ‘No Blood, No Sweat, No Tears’, the brand’s ethical ethos is to manufacture product without employing sweatshop labour. Wildbore has done a good job thus far in penetrating the fickle young fashion market.
The brand has notched up 100 UK wholesale accounts and 500 globally in less than five years. To help him realise his big brand ambitions, Wildbore called upon the talents of an established market veteran earlier this year.
Miles Gray, formerly chief executive of Ben Sherman, joined Monkee Genes as chairman in July to drive its overseas strategy, a big coup for the brand.
“I have a friendship with Miles. I wrote him an email saying: ‘Help me get into the US.’ There isn’t anyone he doesn’t know,” says Wildbore. “He is respectful of what I have done with the brand and the fact that we have kept our ethics.”
Gray invested an undisclosed amount in the brand and straight away made his presence felt at Berlin’s young fashion tradeshow Bread & Butter in July, when he used his market clout to help Monkee Genes secure a prominent space nestled between super brands Diesel and Levi’s.
Next on the agenda is an increase in the number of styles available in the jeans range and build up UK accounts along with expansion overseas. “In the UK we work with as many independents as we can. There is a new influx of indies coming through, such as Reef in Preston and Lancaster and Resurrection in Liverpool, which look exciting and have an eclectic mix,” says Wildbore.
Monkee Genes offers both short and forward order with a 2.5 mark-up.
Wildbore develops the jeans direct with his factory base to keep costs down. “We work with top European mills and instead of retailing for £70, working directly means we can retail for £50,” he says.
However, Wildbore admits the brand had been under-financed, and as a result hasn’t been the best at fulfilling orders in recent seasons, with deliveries often late.
However, with additional expertise on hand in the form of Gray, Wildbore is feeling confident and estimates sales will be up 50% compared with last year.
He has a long-term vision to expand the brand into other product categories, but he adds that he would have to bring in someone else to do this. “I make jeans, it’s my forte,” he says.
Monkee Genes 020 7608 0593 www.monkeegenes.co.uk