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Inside Joe’s and Hudson’s Digital Push to Cope with Covid-19

The pandemic has thrown a curveball at fashion brands, forcing them to rethink all aspects of operations to keep up with health-conscious practices.

In the face of this disruption, Centric Brands’ Joe’s Jeans and Hudson Jeans brands have found new ways to connect with buyers and end consumers by embracing increased digitization.

Amid store closures, the brands saw double-digit direct-to-consumer e-commerce growth, and they are now dropshipping with wholesale partners more than before. Along with consumer-facing digital sales, the labels have leveraged wholesale platform NuORDER to engage with retail partners.

This greater focus on digital channels and the health and safety guidelines in place spawned new workflows and more interdepartmental collaboration. For instance, technical designers have dropped off garments at models’ homes to safely conduct fittings. Meanwhile, merchandising, sales and design teams have aligned to create and lay out virtual showrooms.

As part of the two denim labels’ responses to the current environment, they are taking part in the first digital edition of Informa Markets Fashion’s digital trade event at PROJECT DIGITAL trade show, happening now through Nov. 1. Both brands are regulars at PROJECT, and they have returned this season and embraced the new format.

“We feel like it’s important to reach customers wherever they are,” said Jennifer Stender Hawkins, senior vice president, marketing and innovation, at Joe’s and Hudson. “There was no reason not to do it; they made it very easy and it makes sense. And I think right now it’s really important to try everything and see what’s working.”

Since PROJECT DIGITAL is powered by the NuORDER platform, which Joe’s and Hudson were already using, building their digital showrooms for the show was a smooth process.

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However, creating some of the digital assets to include in their NuORDER showrooms came with a couple challenges, since the time between sample creation and going to market is a narrow window. Typically, with physical showroom visits, there wouldn’t be the same pressure for photography since buyers and editors can see product in person.

The brands’ teams came together and made it happen in the shorter time frame, gathering samples from across Los Angeles for multiple shoots. In an effort to provide a full picture of merchandise, product was shot in stills, on models and in video. Ahead of appointments, the brands sent customers physical swatches of their denim washes, allowing for a more tactile experience as they explore the collections.

“I think both the sales team and the buyers were pleasantly surprised at what they could accomplish virtually,” said Stender Hawkins. “So it’s going to be a really interesting shift in how we all do business going forward.”

Covid-era fashion

Joe’s and Hudson are also embracing changing consumer dressing needs tied to Covid-19.

During the pandemic, Hudson used its in-house sample production facility to make non-medical face masks. Aside from creating necessary personal protective equipment, the initiative served the dual purpose of keeping its sewers working at a time when there wasn’t as much sample work. Following the Hudson project, Joe’s is also preparing to launch masks, catering to the continuing need for PPE.

What started as a quick initiative has morphed into a lasting product.

“Masks [are] now a new accessory category that isn’t really going to go away anytime soon. And I think some of our fabrics lend themselves to being some great fashion masks,” said Stender Hawkins, adding the example of camouflage-print masks for men.

Comfort has been a big part of the Joe’s brand even before this time, but the label has pushed this messaging more during the pandemic. Denim has also been given an update with joggers in a French terry denim for men and a chambray fabric for women, allowing for mobility.

Across both brands, styles are also changing to reflect the times.

For women, a shelter-in-place summer meant denim shorts took off more than usual. Usually during the warmer months the labels would focus more on styles such as white skinny jeans for going out. Consumers are also favoring straight legs to skinnies, a shift that was happening even before Covid struck.

While non-denim bottoms had been increasing in popularity for men ahead of Covid, the stay-at-home lifestyle has accelerated the trend. Joe’s and Hudson are catering to this demand with fabrics such as linen.

But from the perspective of Joe’s and Hudson, Covid-19 is hardly the end for jeans.

“We still feel very bullish on denim,” said Stender Hawkins. “While we’re adding additional non-denim bottoms for men and women, it’s really for additional growth on top of the denim.”

To meet with brands including Joe’s and Hudson, click here to register for PROJECT DIGITAL.