How True Religion jeans got started

To build his brand, founder Jeff Lubell gave pairs of his True Religion jeans away.

EMAIL  |   PRINT  |   SHARE  |   RSS
 
google my aol my msn my yahoo! netvibes
Paste this link into your favorite RSS desktop reader
See all CNNMoney.com RSS FEEDS (close)
Interview by Alyssa Abkowitz, reporter

jeff_lubell.03.jpg
Jeff Lubell, founder of True Religion
HOW_chart.03.jpg

(Fortune Magazine) -- My dad was in the clothing business and moved to L.A. with a New York apparel company when I was 20. I asked if I could work for him. He said, "Why don't you get a job in textiles first and learn the industry?"

So I got a job at a swimwear company, which was fitting because I was captain of my high school team. I ended up staying in the textiles industry for 25 years.

Don't be afraid to approach powerful people.

When I decided to launch True Religion, I went to industry leaders like Mickey Drexler, who was then at the Gap, seeking backing. I couldn't find private money, but I eventually found a jeans manufacturer to help me get my brand started.

Skip the prototype.

I had a concept to create a unique line of jeans with colored stitching and lower pockets. I designed a myriad of styles, and I produced about 14,000 pairs before I sold a piece. Usually you do it the other way around -- you make a sample line, go to market, get orders, and ship your production.

Comp the sales staff.

I went to Fred Segal on Melrose and showed the jeans to a guy who was running the jeans bar. He hated them. I knew his boss, so I showed her the line, but she said, "I don't get it. I don't think my customer is going to get it."

It took me an hour to wear her down, but she finally took 24 pairs. A month went by, and I went back, and they'd only sold two pairs. I asked the sales guy if I could give him a pair free. He and the other workers came out to my truck and I gave them the jeans.

Four days later I went back and couldn't find my jeans. I asked where they were, and he said, "People would come in and ask, 'What are those that you're wearing? I want those.'" They sold out.

Secrets of my success

Manufacture locally
It's expensive to make jeans in L.A., but there's a value to doing it locally. We can produce small runs and then gauge the market reaction before we make larger investments. It allows us to be flexible when introducing new styles.

Protect your name
We combat counterfeiters daily, both online and on the street. We hire experts to seek out the source of the problem, and we work with government agencies around the world. It costs a lot, but you have to be really vigilant.

Outsource everything
I didn't want to own anything, so I depend on my contractors to do everything. They've already made significant investments in fixed assets. By working with them, we benefit from their experience. To top of page

Company Price Change % Change
Apple Inc 99.02 1.35 1.38%
Facebook Inc 74.92 -0.27 -0.36%
Bank of America Corp... 15.50 -0.09 -0.58%
Dollar Tree Inc 54.87 -0.08 -0.15%
Family Dollar Stores... 75.74 15.08 24.86%
Data as of Jul 28
Index Last Change % Change
Dow 16,982.59 22.02 0.13%
Nasdaq 4,444.91 -4.65 -0.10%
S&P 500 1,978.91 0.57 0.03%
Treasuries 2.49 0.02 0.89%
Data as of 12:52am ET
More Galleries
The 13 most WTF gadgets From the weird to the gross, these 13 gadgets will make you wonder why the even exist. More
Best-loved cars in America These cars and trucks topped J.D. Power's APEAL survey, which measures how much owners like their new vehicles. More
America's most powerful cars A new 'horsepower war' has erupted among U.S. automakers and these are the most potent weapons in their arsenals. More
Worry about the hackers you don't know 
Crime syndicates and government organizations pose a much greater cyber threat than renegade hacker groups like Anonymous. Play
GE CEO: Bringing jobs back to the U.S. 
Jeff Immelt says the U.S. is a cost competitive market for advanced manufacturing and that GE is bringing jobs back from Mexico. Play
Hamster wheel and wedgie-powered transit 
Red Bull Creation challenges hackers and engineers to invent new modes of transportation. Play

Market indexes are shown in real time, except for the DJIA, which is delayed by two minutes. All times are ET. Disclaimer Morningstar: © 2014 Morningstar, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Disclaimer The Dow Jones IndexesSM are proprietary to and distributed by Dow Jones & Company, Inc. and have been licensed for use. All content of the Dow Jones IndexesSM © 2014 is proprietary to Dow Jones & Company, Inc. Chicago Mercantile Association. The market data is the property of Chicago Mercantile Exchange Inc. and its licensors. All rights reserved. FactSet Research Systems Inc. 2014. All rights reserved. Most stock quote data provided by BATS.