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Monfrère Founders on Filling in the Blank Space in Men’s Denim

According to Monfrère co-founders (and brothers-in-law) Sean Rudes and Steven Dann, men’s denim has always fit into one of two buckets: streetwear or luxury.

In 2016, after years of friendship—and legal brotherhood—the duo launched a brand of premium denim that fits somewhere in between those two apparel categories.

“We managed to create a space that didn’t exist before,” Dann told Rivet. “If you don’t want classic rugged denim, but you also don’t want designer denim where you’ll spend upwards of $1,400, there’s really no option for you. So, we’ve taken that designer aesthetic and combined it with traditional denim that’s been innovated.”

French for “my brother,” Monfrère jeans retail for $230-$265 and are built to fit every man, regardless of size, shape or age. The Los Angeles-based brand launched with its signature straight, slim and skinny jeans—all of which are still bestsellers today—and three washes. Today, it makes jeans in more than 26 different washes and sells to 55 locations.

Sourcing high-quality fabrics from Japanese mills and the brand’s trademark inseam—which extends to 36-inches in some styles—further sets it apart from other men’s denim. The added length makes it a favorite among larger men who struggle to find fashionable styles that fit.

“In two and a half short years, we’ve built a really substantial male athlete fanbase,” Dann said.

Monfrère’s following heated up when Detroit Lions wide receiver Marvin Jones, Jr. approached the pair to be a brand ambassador, after which athletes and celebrities alike started wearing the brand. John Legend, Lionel Ritchie, Sting, Paul McCartney, Alex Rodriguez and the Jonas Brothers have also been spotted wearing the brand, underscoring its premium quality and wide appeal.

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With reign over the athlete market and prime placement in stores like Bergdorf Goodman, the next step for Monfrère was to go abroad. Earlier this year, the brand locked in deals with Barneys Japan, Harvey Nichols Dubai and Qatar, and Selfridges in London, and is currently in talks with a Korean distributor that’s expected to catapult its presence in the Asian market.

According to Rudes, the expansion to Europe and Asia not only inflates Monfrère’s presence, but also helps the brand explore different styles. Its Fall/Winter ’19 campaign highlights some of the edgiest looks, including skinny jeans with metallic snake and cheetah prints that push the brand into new territory, both stylistically and geographically.

“Europe is known for being ahead of fashion trends, and it’s always been a goal of ours to be more of a fashion brand than a denim brand,” Rudes said. “We’re maintaining our authentic denim collection but also pushing the fashion envelope as we expand to different markets.”

Despite Monfrère’s fast growth and the pair’s strong fashion roots—Rudes is the son of J Brand co-founder Jeff Rudes and Dann was a buyer for men’s and women’s denim at Versace—the two remain humble. Both maintain a close relationship with merchants and often visit stores for firsthand feedback on their collections.

“A lot of designers get carried away with their vision and that’s all they see. They lose that intimacy with their customer,” said Rudes.

Their background in premium denim, combined with their customer-centric approach, means they’re not shy about going into intricate detail with shoppers about the makeup of their denim—from the 98 percent recovery to the minimal branding on the back pockets that give the jeans a clean finish. And no matter how big they continue to grow, chances are good that they’ll both be found engaging with people on the store floors for years to come.

“The heart of the brand comes from the salespeople and management in our stores,” Dann said. “It’s about listening to the customer and making sure you create a product that everyone feels comfortable wearing.”