Los Angeles-born Boyish Jeans has made its international debut. The sustainability-obsessed brand is taking on Europe.
But true to founder and creative director Jordan Nordarse’s mindful attitude toward denim, the brand is making its entrance with more of a whisper than a bang.
“I’m very fortunate to have found a good distributor who has similar ideology on what I want to do with wholesale. We’re not looking to rapidly expand; we don’t want everyone to buy our jeans,” Nodarse told Rivet. “We’re just looking for the right stores that care about our mission.”
That mission has been an integral part of the Boyish brand from the beginning, and Nodarse has sought out like-minded partners who share the company’s vision to “change people’s mentality on the way they shop.”
Nodarse characterizes the European market as a perfect place to expand because sustainability is a topic of interest, and consumers have already embarked on a journey to educate themselves.
“Our customers in the U.S. are still learning,” he said. “At the end of the day, we want to be more sustainable, and the customers in Europe are challenging us.”
The goal is to have one “flagship” retail partner in each major city. Rather than over-distribute or over-produce, Nodarse would rather focus in on a subset of stores or franchises that can best support the Boyish philosophy.
That doesn’t mean he’s thinking small, though. The brand is already selling at Paris’ iconic Le Bon Marche and Selfridges in London, along with about 20 other popular stores across the continent like Kadewe in Berlin and Sana Eulalia in Barcelona.
When asked how the expansion has impacted sourcing, Nodarse said not much has changed.
Boyish still uses the same factories in Thailand and Turkey, which each produce styles using different sustainable technologies. Wary of over-producing, the brand hasn’t yet ramped up those efforts notably.
Instead, access to a different type of consumer has helped the brand sell through existing product.
“It’s actually nice because some of the styles that aren’t doing as well in the U.S. do well in Europe, and vice versa,” Nodarse explained. “Instead of us off-pricing or putting things on sale, we’re able to distribute things appropriately.”
Though Boyish has only been selling in the European market for a few months, the brand is beginning to pick up on what consumers are looking for. Europeans tend to prefer a “cleaner aesthetic” than the “destroyed look” that’s popular back in the U.S., Nodarse said. And, they appreciate subtle, novel details.
“In the U.S., a lot of the buyers are still buying skinny jeans,” he added. “At Boyish, we’re focused on building styles that are more unique, and centralized around alternative fits.”
In fact, Nodarse plans on removing “super stretchy” jeans from the collection starting in 2020. Mostly, he said, because he’s unsatisfied with the sustainable stretch options available on the market.
The next collection will feature mostly the brand’s signature rigid denim, which Nodarse said is fully recyclable.
And for styles that require a bit of stretch, he said, “we’re only doing one percent recycled elastane,” made by sustainable stretch fiber company Roica. “Almost all of our fabrics will be made with Lenzing’s Refibra, recycled cotton, and, if they have that one percent stretch, it will be Roica yarn.”
Though the Boyish supply chain hasn’t changed, Nodarse is excited about the new sustainable marketing and manufacturing opportunities that the brand’s European foray will bring.
One such initiative that’s already underway is a virtual reality tour of Boyish’s mills, which consumers will be able to experience at Selfridges in London.
Nodarse describes a pop-up like setup in the stores, which he and his team built using recycled materials. Using a headset, consumers will get a glimpse of the yarn-spinning process at the brand’s factories. “I talk about what organic cotton is, what Tencel is, how we’re using cutting scraps in our fabrics, and what a laser cutting machine is,” he said.
Though he insists the videography is “very amateur,” he said that consumers are curious about what goes on behind the scenes. “Any transparency is better than nothing,” he added.
Another Selfridges collaboration will attempt to create a truly circular model for denim. Nodarse is working with the retailer to launch a denim collection program, where consumers can donate their worn jeans to be re-spun into yarns for new products. Stockholm-based fiber company Re:newcell will produce the material.
“They’ll be creating a recycled cellulosic yarn for us, kind of similar to Refibra, but made from post-consumer products rather than post-industrial,” he said.
Ultimately, Nodarse wants to recycle, mill, cut and sew the jeans in Europe, “then send them back to Selfridges.”
“It’s this concept of zero waste,” he said.
While he’s unquestionably interested in growing the Boyish business, Nodarse is arguably more passionate about spreading the good word about denim sustainability.
Expanding to the European market only gives him a broader platform for influence—and experimentation.
“At the end of the day, we can do this because we don’t need to produce millions of pairs of jeans,” he said of his new venture with Selfridges. “I can be the early adopter and steer the ship on these efforts, to make it so that bigger companies can adopt these programs later on. We can be the guinea pigs,” he said.
Rather than pushing for unbridled growth, he said, “I’d rather spend my attention figuring out how to sell more to our consumers, figuring out what they need, and educating them on conscious consumerism.”