Ace Rivington founder Beau Lawrence brings storytelling to brick-and-mortar retail.
Ace Rivington founder Beau Lawrence’s imagination runs deeper than denim. With more than 18 years of men’s jeanswear experience, the former director of product development for Guess launched Ace Rivington on Kickstarter in 2013 with the goal of taking consumers on an adventure.
His first design of choice, a Homespun French Terry sweatshirt, of which he sold 600 and raised $60,000 in just 34 days, was only the starting point of the journey.
Today, his Santa Barbara, Calif.-based Ace Rivington store is stocked with much more than that, and essentially serves as the brand’s showroom. Designed with Havana-inspired elements, the store provides customers with an unmatched experience—and has even been the setting of a marriage proposal. It also features an on-site denim tailoring workshop, where Lawrence can be found putting his jeanswear experience to use tailoring and repairing jeans.
Why are you drawn to denim?
As a kid, I was lucky to have grandparents who taught me the value of making things. My grandfather was a handy man who taught me how to hammer a nail, and my grandmothers taught me to sew and paint. It would be a number of years before I’d find denim, and much like learning from my grandparents, I was lucky to have the right teachers—from Silvio Marceca to Andrew Olah and many others—who introduced me to the story and artistic process of the incredible fabric that is denim. An ever-changing canvas, denim set the foundation for me to create thousands of ideas in my career, and I know it’s a fabric I'll work with for the rest of my life.
What is the biggest challenge that you’ve had to overcome as a retailer?
Oddly enough, the things you'd imagine that are hard about being a retailer, like finding shoppers, aren’t the biggest challenges for Ace Rivington. The hardest part about being a retailer is inventory management. As a brand, we have to consolidate our wholesale orders along with our retail and online needs. Timing isn’t always ideal, which can create gaps in key product sizing for us in the store. Fortunately, we’ve found that Perrier, Pabst Blue Ribbon and the right restaurant recommendations in Santa Barbara go a long way to help our customers be patient while we’re working to get back in stock.
What do you wish you could see more of from denim brands?
As a manufacturer, one of the lightbulbs that went off in my head a long time ago was understanding that every decision that we make has an impact. We have the choice to purchase our biodegradable shipping bags from Noissue.co; we have the choice to work exclusively with Candiani Denim—the greenest mill in the blue world—and we have a choice to offer a lifetime warranty on our jeans (because they are that good). What I wish we’d see from more denim brands is managed impact, both by working with the most sustainable supplier options possible and by standing behind their products more. The idea of a lifetime warranty makes an incredible statement about the brand, and if this thinking actually simplifies lives by focusing on staples and eliminating disposable products from one’s wardrobe, then we all win.
Why do you think your customers return?
Santa Barbara is a small town, and a special place in the world. When you walk in the door to Ace Rivington, the first goal that my team and I have is to make sure you're enjoying the town as much as we are, whether you're a lifelong local or a tourist. We look at the store like it’s our living room, and we treat everyone like a guest in our home, offering a cool drink and plenty of local hospitality. We also happen to bring you into a world of Ace Rivington thematic storytelling, with our Cuba-inspired store experience, Buena Vista Social Club on the radio and the subtle scent of a smoky bar in Havana. You layer all of that in with a full denim tailoring workshop—every Saturday, I'll alter your jeans while you wait—and we've created a very unique retail experience. As life gets faster, and time becomes more important in people’s lives, it isn't a secret that delivering an amazing experience is all that folks want, and that's why our customers return.
What’s exciting you about denim in 2019?
This year has certainly been a big year in denim, and what excites me most is that heritage brands and vintage inspiration are relevant. I'm really simple in my perspective on product, and in many ways, I feel like if something was good enough to build a brand years ago, so long as the product makes sense, it should still be important today. The updates that are taking vintage into the future are certainly some of the biggest things happening this year, with sustainability finally making front page news, and technology moving fabric, wash and product forward in many ways. The time is now, and the tools are available to the denim industry for us all to make jeans that can look cool in your closet for a long time.