In less than six years, performance denim brand Duer has evolved from a Kickstarter campaign into a brand with a large following and an interactive retail experience to match. And now, as COVID-19 sparks a series of bankruptcies and layoffs throughout the denim industry, Duer is continuing to evolve by spearheading an initiative that could provide hope for struggling brands.
Following a 75 percent revenue loss in just one week during the pandemic, founder Gary Lenett and his team decided to flip the traditional concept of supply and demand on its head.
Rather than establish an inventory of products and then build demand with expensive marketing campaigns, the brand is testing a pre-sale method called Next by Duer that will drive the development of new product prototypes.
The brand creates a prototype, runs a three-week campaign on its website and moves a new style into production if enough shoppers show interest. To sweeten the deal, Duer offers a discount of up to 30 percent for pre-orders.
Under this model—and combined with its vertical manufacturing capabilities—the brand doesn’t need consumer commitments to move a design forward. Instead, all it needs is a prototype to gauge interest. According to Lenett, this is a win for both inventory management and product development.
“This model allows us to internally design with some creativity,” he told Rivet. “Our consumers dictate what goes into production, as they vote with their credit cards by prepaying. If we don’t receive our minimum sales goal, then we refund their money.”
Lenett added that missing their sales goals is unlikely, as the brand’s manufacturing is vertical and therefore the only requirement is that the brand meets fabric minimums set by its mill partners.
Once a product is pushed into production, customers can expect to receive it within 4-12 weeks. For context, traditional clothing supply chains typically take 6-18 months.
The first Next by Duer campaign, which centers on its Live Lite collection of slim, straight, relaxed tapered pants and shorts, is now live at duer.ca and shopduer.com, and exceeding funding expectations. The pants and shorts, $59 and $99, feature lightweight, “bacteria-inhibiting” material and come in a variety of colors.
But don’t call Next by Duer “fast fashion.”
“Next by Duer is about quick response as is fast fashion, but that is where the comparison ends,” Lenett said. “[With this model, we’re] trying to eliminate the need for excess inventory by ensuring we only produce exactly to the demand. Additionally, our brand espouses only buying a few versatile well-made things, which contrasts rampant consumerism that is so apparent in the marketplace.”