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Detroit Denim Co. Sets its Sights on Expansion Amid Custom Selvedge Success

Detroit Denim Co. announced plans for an expansion during Detroit’s Design Retail Forum in early September, Crain’s Detroit reported. Founder Eric Yelsma told a crowd of industry leaders at the conference that he is looking for a new 1,000-square-foot space in Detroit.

Current production for the custom denim brand peaks at around 20 pairs of selvedge denim jeans per day. Each pair is handmade and retails starting at $195. Yelsma expects production to increase to 250 by 2020 and to 1,000 pairs per day at the completion of the expansion in 2022.

Detroit Denim was founded in 2010, just a few years before the city filed for bankruptcy. Citing an “underdog” mentality, Yelsma attributes his company’s success to a commitment to its identity as a niche market brand, made and sold in his hometown.

“My goal isn’t to overtake the jeans or apparel industry, but to be niche specific,” Yelsma explained, according to the Crain’s Detroit report. “I don’t think there will be a growth in the apparel business like it was in the ’70s, but I think there’s space for us.”

Yelsma said he hopes a larger space will connect his business to higher foot traffic. Along with increased production and a more prominent position in the community, the expansion could also create up to six new jobs at Detroit Denim. Yelsma currently employs 12 people in Detroit Denim’s original space in the Rivertown Warehouse District.

Although production will shift elsewhere, the low rent in this district and around the struggling Detroit metro enabled Detroit Denim to get off the ground.

“It’s a different story now looking for space and finding vacancy and something more appropriate for us than it was, say, five years ago,” Yelsma said during his talk at the Forum.

Yelsma also projected that revenue for Detroit Denim will come out to about $1 million in 2018. Detroit Denim Co.’s success in such a specific retail market may be a sign of things to come in an industry that has seen a parade of newcomers find success with innovative products and business models.

Detroit Denim Co., for instance, offers a remarkable level of customization for its collection of premium denim. Employees take the time to measure and customize each pair of Detroit Denim jeans for customers, teaching them what to expect from their denim along the way.

“Every time you buy jeans, we can mark them and hem them up on the spot,” said Yelsma. “It’s a level of customization we can do and it’s good on our behalf to not have excess supply.”