“There’s always a little education needed with something new,” said denim guru Michael Glasser. “Retailers today who were used to getting great sales in the denim business are no longer getting that and so they are being a little more conservative.”
Glasser is currently in the business of making “newness” happen with his latest project, DWP (a.k.a. Design with Purpose). The women’s apparel collection, initially founded to be a “true alternative” to jeans, aims to recreate the cool attitude associated with denim, but with more of the comfort, stretch and drapey fabrics that resonate at the consumer level today. And the young line is already cool girl-approved: Gwen Stefani is a partner in the business.
Newness, Glasser believes, is just what fashion and retail needs to revive consumer interest. “People stayed at the party way too long,” he said of the denim stalemate.
When Glasser started 7 For All Mankind in 2000, he said the brand was churning out jeans, and retailers like Barneys New York were merchandising product with a flair that the world could understand. Both are still pumping out denim and creating successful visuals, but Glasser noted that with a category placing all its bets on one fit for endless season, closets were bound to get overwhelmed with skinny jeans.
“There are always two legs,” Glasser said of jeans. “What makes you want to buy from one category is newness, so if you’re not finding it, what are you going to do? You go to another area of the store and buy a dress, or something else that seems newer.”
Which is what Glasser did after left 7 For All Mankind, eventually moving into an (almost) entirely new direction with DWP. “After a while, I realized the jeans business has taken a big hit and I looked around at the landscape and realized I could do an alternative to a jean, but approach it as a five-pocket jean,” he said.
Tencel and rayon are the primary fabrics in the line, which Glasser said brings the soft hand that’s luring women to the athleisure market, the twist being that all of the garments are washed, coated or goes through the same dyeing processes that jeans go through. “Everything you can do to jeans, I do to these products, so it comes across as the same washable, worn-in look,” he explained.
DWP’s biggest success story so far is its propriety 4×4 knit, named after its four-way stretch. “Women are going crazy for it,” Glaser reported. “It is the experience of a jean, but it’s not a five-pocket jean and it holds you in. It brings out the woman in you. You feel sexy. You get the looks and the compliments.”
New digital prints for Fall ’15, which Glasser likened to famous works of art, bring a whole conversational element to the line. “It might not be date night clothes, but it is for going out,” he said. “It’s a line for women who is confident in her look—cool with an attitude—but ultimately she wants to be comfortable.”
DWP’s end game is yet to be determined, which is something Glasser enjoys. “You can create something from the beginning without an agenda and still be successful,” he said, pointing out that 7 For All Mankind was formed with no official plan or agenda. “It’s like your baby and you want to see it grow.”
However, he hopes the touch of newness that DWP brings to the marketplace will incite retailers, consumers and their drive to buy. “My goal is that, the landscape is very unhealthy at retail, and we want to do something to stimulate business,” he said. “If product is good, that opens [consumers] up to buying more. Everything starts to look better and that is what is missing in the stores today.”