Williamsburg Garment Co. is designing denim for the people: quality over quantity at the closest you’ll get to factory direct prices. Founder, owner, and head designer Maurice Malone (who’s no stranger to the denim business—he’s served as head of design and project manager to a top freelance denim design studio for over ten years) says one of Steve Jobs‘ famous quotes sparked the company’s beginning: “Think Different”. And different, he’s doing it. With the utmost in fabric quality, pristine washes, and some serious neighborhood pride (all fits are named after Streets and Avenues in Williamsburg, Brooklyn), WGC is about to be the new favorite brand of every denim snob on the East Coast (and those of us who just want an awesome product we can afford). Read on to find out how all of this started, and where it’s headed.
Denim Therapy: Lets start from the beginning. What inspired you to get this brand off the ground?
Maurice Malone: I went into business with virtually no money by today’s business standards. My love and passion for design is what inspires and drives me. My knowledge, experience and limited budget drove me to come up with the formula for this brand. I can’t out-BIG any company, so I made being a small my advantage.
I approached launching this brand inspired by Apple’s “Think Different” campaign, Steve Jobs, Facebook and Opening Ceremony’s marketing power.
DT: How does WGC differentiate itself from the hundreds of popular denim brands afloat right now?
MM: Retailers like me because I can deliver a great product at nearly factory direct prices, allowing them an incredible mark-up on product that is among the lowest priced and highest quality in their stores. For consumers looking for a great pair of jeans, my product is a no-brainer. Pay an extra $100 or more to be branded with labels on your jeans or save $100 and get a pair of jeans: a better product with no outer labeling. Our branding is in our unique coin pocket, subtle logo on the inside of the waistband.
DT: We could probably talk for pages about this unique business model for WGC, but let’s talk product. Do you have any pre-designing rituals?
MM: I constantly remind myself to keep it simple and clean. Quality, Fit and Simplicity are the core goals of the product. Low pricing is achieved through streamlined operations, production savvy and putting less in my pocket. WGC is not a brand selling the consumer a lifestyle, image or marketing to a specific segment. Product is increasingly becoming secondary in today’s market, but we’re making a high quality product competing with jeans upward of $200, for less then $100.
No, this isn’t a new idea, and I don’t pretend it to be. But when you look at my product inside and out, there’s a huge difference between brands that claim this kind of quality at low prices, while they’re driving costs down by using low quality fabrics, inferior construction and high volume to lower their prices. I can beat big volume brands because I’m not profit driven. I don’t have all the expenses (sales commissions, warehousing, staff, returns, etc).
I’m a “small time operation” doing “small time business”. That’s my advantage.
DT: Describe your ideal target customer.
MM: I see the brand product based, so I don’t really have a target customer as much as I have a target retailer. I would like to see the brands consumer acceptance as wide as Levis… but while Levis offers both low price/low quality and high price/high quality, my goal is to be at a lower retail price than Levi’s, and never lower quality (or sell hideously washed styles). As for my target retailer, I’m aiming for better stores I can partner with to deliver their customers a product that will have them excited about the next shipment.
DT: What would be your dream collaboration? Any plans of that in the future?
MM: I would be happy collaborating with Opening Ceremony, Barney’s and Lane Crawford in my first year, along with a few other select retailers. I showed Opening Ceremony the collection recently and they loved it. I have an in with Lane Crawford that’s panning out too—fingers crossed.
All in due time—right now I’m all over the place doing everything single handedly. One week I’m building the website, one week I’m designing, one week it’s all about production… then there’s my blog, the freelance design I do, production for other brands… I don’t have time to waste, so I have to plan carefully. Basically, the coming weeks are all about promoting and pitching. And besides pitching a story to CNN recently, you’re my first real interview, so when the brand becomes a hit, you can claim breaking the story!
DT: Street style and style blogs are huge in the industry right now as a source of inspiration, influencing the high-end labels rather than vice versa. How much does street style influence your designing?
MM: To me, small blogs have the big impact as opposed to big corporate media outlets. It’s the difference between the shopping experience of department store and a small shop where the owner is greeting you from behind the register. Blogs are a bigger part of my marketing plan then my designing inspiration. My goal is to have personal relationships with a thousand blogs around the world.
DT: How do you see your jeans being styled?
MM: Clean, mature and tasteful. It’s not a loud, youthful or trendy brand.
DT: Can you give us hint about what’s next?
MM: Well, you know you’re doing something right when investors start calling you before your product has even shipped. I’ll be expanding to a full collection for Fall 2012. I’ve been asked by one of my factory partners to open retail stores next year with their backing (which I am seriously considering). I’ve been rejecting wholesale operation backing as it would destroy the entire formula.
Above all, I can tell you I won’t be in the business of chasing profits. I believe if you make a good product, offer good customer service and work smart, profits will success will happen.
Check out the men’s and women’s styles from the line below:
Huge thanks to Maurice for this insightful Q&A—be sure to check out Williamsburg Garment Co. online, on facebook, and on Twitter.
—Michelle Christina Larsen
Tags: denim for less than $100, denim under $100, factory direct price, maurice malone, Opening Ceremony, Steve Jobs, williamsburg garment co