Andre Williams’ advice to fashion entrepreneurs is to take a chance—and to do it now.
The former New York Giants running back turned jeans brand founder is following his own suggestion and launching his first physical retail store after operating exclusively online for the past six years.
Despite the retail landscape’s recent decline and the e-commerce sector’s growth, Williams will open All Weather Selvedge Denim Co. (AW) at the Promenade Shops in Saucon Valley, Pa. in August. He said the current retail landscape is what helped him secure a space in a high-end outdoor shopping center during a challenging but “seemingly stable” moment in time.
“I encourage all young entrepreneurs with the available assets and capital to roll the dice and set up shop now,” he told Rivet. “There is a demand for quality products and good service.”
Williams launched the brand in 2015 when he discovered a gap in the denim market: While men’s denim sometimes offered extended sizing, the fit wasn’t nearly as diverse. He worked with an artisan on a selvedge jean that embodied all of the craftsmanship of a classic pair of jeans, but with more room in the upper leg for those with an athletic build.
Though the transition from football to fashion was unexpected, Williams said it had been in the works for years before anything came into fruition. The summer after his rookie season with the Giants in 2015, he dabbled in footwear, debuting the Runningman Red Herring low-top leather loafer.
“Making that shoe opened doors into the fashion world that I never expected,” he said. “The Runningman impressed a brand developer that was based in the area. He helped me create my vision for athletic fit denim, bringing me from idea to product in under three months. It was incredible, and when I saw what I created alongside my shoes, I was sure about my path.”
AW Denim Co. jeans are created from three proprietary Japanese selvedge fabrics—named Tom, Brad and George—from Kurabo, Kaihara and Kuroki mills, which each produce a unique fabric using organic cotton and dyes. Jeans are cut and sewn in China, and then brought to a “special secret wash house” that allows it to offer both raw unsanforized and washed denim available in “ripe” and “antique” washes.
This dedication to details will be on full display at the new store, which Williams said was designed to “look like a denim museum.” Pictures tell a story of local people in AW jeans, and shadow boxes display aspects of denim art, documenting the progression of a loomstate pair into faded maturity. “There will be more denim art on the show room floor than actual denim product,” he said.
In addition to AW products, the store will also sell denim apparel from its sister brand, DKShin, a men’s and women’s denim line that “breaks all of AW’s rules for classic silhouettes.” The moto-style skinny jean is embellished with signature treated black leather insert above the knee and comes in three wash styles for women and men. Rapper French Montana wore the label in his 2020 “Straight for the Bag” music video with Philadelphia-based artist LGP Qua.
Looking ahead, Williams has ambitious plans for the future, including relocating AW’s production to California for a Made in USA line slated for the fall. The upcoming collection will offer more traditional fits, additional fabrics and more categories like tops and accessories.
But even with all of these plans for driving growth, Williams said his store will always be digital-first.
“AW began as digital asset and will remain so,” he said. “The benefit of a physical location is that people can actually come and see the quality in person, try on and understand the fit. I can focus a content campaign on a single area and gain support from local people. If I can get them to take pride and a sense of ownership in the brand, I expect that to have a growth effect on e-commerce.”
Currently, AW jeans are available at www.donandswagger.com and retail between $125-$175. DKShin’s price range is $225-$250.