Adriano Goldschmied’s blood runs blue with indigo. The denim guru has had a hand in the development of a number of premium denim brands, many which have remarkably become household names, including Diesel, Gap 1969, Citizens of Humanity and his own AG Adriano Goldschmied label. With a career spanning decades worth of denim innovation–from both technical and branding standpoints–Goldschmied is now lending his magic as a consultant for textile projects in Asia. Sourcing Journal spoke to Goldschmied about the current state of the premium denim market, the advantages of manufacturing in the U.S. and the value of innovation.
SJ: What is the current state of denim?
AG: My feeling is that we are in a kind of transition. The old formulas and modules are tired and are not working anymore. Those brands that are static and conservative are clearly suffering. I am sure that if you think of new ideas, fits, new fabrications and washes, and are able to communicate it properly, you will be successful.
SJ: Denim has always been a very cluttered marketplace. What was your point of differentiation when you launched AG Adriano Goldschmied in 2000?
AG: I wanted to bring something simple–a “perfect” product. I was thinking about every single small detail and choosing all the time the best possible in terms of design and quality. This was regarding basically everything, from obviously the fabrics and fits but also the labels, trims, pocket lining and accessories, construction of the garment and washes. There is nothing louder than a simple product with high quality. The consumer recognizes it immediately.
SJ: Why do you believe “Made in America” is a sustainable business model for premium denim?
AG: As always, and even more so in the future, premium denim needs to be driven from innovation. It is a premium product not because it is more expensive but because it is bringing something better and new. The new thing is not only about the fashion direction but also how we run our business and production in America. Sustainability and general responsibility–along with the ability of bringing new things in the market–are a big part of our model.
SJ: Why do you manufacture in the USA? Do you feel customers are willing to pay a premium for local manufacturing?
AG: A great product cannot be derived from a FedEx package or just a tech sheet. You need to take care of your product every day, bringing constant improvements and having constant control. For us, this can be done only in America. It is more than just a label. Consumers recognize the excellence and the quality of the product, and for that, they are ready to pay a premium price.
SJ: What are your thoughts on bringing large scale manufacturing back to the States? Is it all hype?
AG: I don’t think it is realistic considering the costs of a domestic production and the demand of the market for lower level.
SJ: Many brands grew and prospered during the premium denim boom and then lost their floor space when the market collapsed. However, you survived and built a globally recognizable brand. What do you attribute this to?
AG: To the fact that I was not just taking advantage of a trend in the market, but that I’ve been building a quality jean and giving the best of what at that time was available.
SJ: Many retailers say denim hasn’t been performing for a while. What can be done to reinvent this space?
AG: That is probably true for the stores that have been thinking that the good times are forever without working too much to innovate. The truth is, if you work hard and you reinvent your business, you can create so many more opportunities. Just to give an example, look at the new expression of denim applied in the active leisure category. It is literally booming.
SJ: If you had to start all over again, do you think you could create such a successful brand in today’s environment?
AG: I feel yes–everyday somebody dies and somebody is born. This is also what happens for brands, too. As long as you have an interesting point of view and are able to bring it to the market, you will generate attention and have the possibility to grow.
SJ: Do you feel product is still king?
AG: It is, but product is not the only thing. Our world today is very sophisticated and you have to consider every aspect, from product and communication to innovation in the marketing and perfect operation and finance.
SJ: What’s next on your agenda?
AG: Something that is much more then just a jean–and it is a surprise.