Designers often leave the Midwest to build their clothing line in New York or Los Angeles, but for Kansas City native Kerry Duffin, being in the ‘Heart of America’ was the perfect fit.
Before creating his brand in 2013 and the Garment Factory in 2017, Duffin worked in the music industry. His transition into denim came after noticing figure flattering jeans worn by women in Miami’s South Beach neighborhood.
“I would see women wearing jeans and their figures were phenomenal,” Duffin said. “Fast forward the next five or six years, every time I mentioned it to a woman their reaction was the same, it was the immediate ‘where can I get a pair?’”
This led Duffin to introduce the “Lucy Lift” which gives the wearer’s bottom a lift through a specially designed yoke, contoured waist and stretch denim. The technique is featured on the Lucy Marie jean, which is available in four leg styles: cigarette, cropped, flare and skinny.
The company also offers a men’s line called the Herman, which is available in two fits, straight and taper, with a contoured waist.
Midwestern sensibilities have also contributed to Duffin’s designs. “Being born and raised in the Midwest, everything we do, everything I do is a practical matter. You just do what makes sense, do what comes naturally,” he said.
Duffin’s consumers share his interest in the pragmatic. They tend to look for denim that functions easily while flattering the body. “We found a market with people who are active, people who take care of themselves, who want to show off their work. But also it’s a practical comfort,” he explained.
For many designers like Duffin, Kansas City is a cost-effective alternative to the high price of major cities. The cost of living is 75 percent cheaper in Missouri than on the coast, he said, allowing him to maintain his business and pass along savings to the end user. The jeans retail for under $120.
The town also has a rich history in the American denim industry. “Up until the early 90s, Kansas City was second to New York for garment manufacturing.” Lee Denim has been headquartered in Kansas City since 1917 and more recently, Baldwin calls the area home.
Visibility online and demand from customers to purchase locally are also factors in Lucy Marie and Herman Denim’s success. “The ‘Made in USA’ movement is stronger than ever before. But I think underneath all that…there’s been a leveling of the playing field due to e-commerce, due to social media,” he said.
Up next, Duffin told Rivet that Lucy Marie and Herman Denim will expand to knits and more denim products in future seasons.