As a fourth-generation apparel leader descending from European tailors, William R. Adler has always been obsessed with fit and craftsmanship. His grandfather ran America’s oldest and second largest apparel manufacturing company, which outfitted American men in suits and slacks, and become part of PVH.
Today’s less formal fashion vibe might have Adler’s relatives shuddering, but they would approve of his Ai-driven True Fit and Fashion Genome, decoding fit for nearly 100 million active True Fit shoppers to millions of styles. The pandemic’s online surge made fit even more crucial to a denim brand’s success—lifting loyalty and sales up while driving returns downs. It is truly True Fit’s time to shine.
“What an exciting moment,” said Adler, who also worked in footwear, another industry with massive fit problems. “We have a $2 trillion footwear and apparel market that took 20 years to get to only 20 percent online and post Covid, McKinsey predicts it’ll go to 40 percent digital by 2025. And Bain, Mintel and others continually validate that Fit is the No. 1 reason why the online apparel market is so constrained.”
And probably why True Fit saw 125 percent growth in annual recurring revenue since Covid. Zappos and Amazon might be able to afford customers’ frequent size sampling and returns, but other retailers are increasingly needing an expert fit solution. “Retailers using True Fit have seen up to a 40 percent reduction in size sampling related returns,” he said. “It’s a privilege for True Fit to remove size and fit from the cognitive experience and connect the consumer to the brand they love.”
What denim buzzword do you think is overused? And what would you replace it with?
The word sustainability has become overused and is now oversimplified. It’s not just denim—it’s the whole fashion industry. I do think most brands are sincere about wanting to drive truly sustainable practices, and most are on a path pursuing that in a variety of ways. But the fact is the gap between current practice and “sustainable” fashion is massive.
My former colleague from Timberland, Ken Pucker, summarizes the complexity while offering practical solutions in his erudite HBR piece, “The Myth of Sustainable Fashion,” which is a must-read for anyone sincere about sustainability. I’m not sure what to replace it with but Pucker notes that environmental leaders like Patagonia don’t use the word sustainability anymore. He refers casually to authentic sustainability at the end. That resonated with me. Consumers really trust and respect authenticity.
What do you wish more consumers knew about the jeans they buy?
Craftsmanship. I deeply respect and appreciate the amount of craftsmanship and detail that goes into designing a pair of jeans that millions of people love. The art and science behind the creation of every pair is remarkable. And as Amazon and others drive high-volume, low-cost models, craftsmanship is an inspiring position. When you find that pair of jeans that is true to you, it feels like they were made for you. It’s a really incredible moment for the consumer and their connection to that brand.
If you had one request for denim brands, what would that be?
We are really inspired by your commitment to inclusivity, and we appreciate how denim brands extend sizing and show denim on real bodies and shapes. Definitely keep that up!
What can other apparel categories learn from the denim industry?
Make fit and understanding your core consumer the foundation of your brand. Hire talented technical designers and consumer marketing experts. Denim brands must do this to be relevant and to connect with shoppers because the best jeans are the ones that fit perfectly. When other categories do this too, they dramatically expand their loyalty and drive growth. Especially if we have an economic downturn ahead, consumers will be looking to connect successfully to the brands and sizes that are true to them.
What was your most recent denim purchase?
Paige Denim’s Normandie Inkwell 36/32. Hooked for life.
What is your first denim memory?