Repurposed fashion is officially booming.
Reworking fashion has decidedly become more prevalent since Vetements started turning heads. Today, even Urban Outfitters is on the bandwagon — it launched ReWork, a line made of reused and recycled materials, last year.
Vetements reworked denim (Image via La Garconee)
In terms of denim, Re/Done — known for reworking vintage Levi’s into flattering, trendy fits for “it” girls and their many followers — paved the way for Vetements. Launched by Sean Barron — he previously founded Katayone Adeli, which he calls “the first real contemporary brand,” and Joie — and businessman Jamie Mazur in the summer of 2014, it’s the first brand Levi’s has ever licensed its name to. (Re/Done’s Levi’s jeans, which typically sell for just shy of $300, are co-branded by Levi’s, and they feature Levi’s rivets.)
“We see our relationship [with Levi’s] as a long-term partnership,” said Re/Done marketing director Mia Zee. (On the flip side, Champion’s head designer told Racked he first discovered Vetements’ Champion-branded styles when they hit the runway.)
While Re/Done, which partners with a range of American heritage brands, declined to share its revenue numbers, Barron said business is growing rapidly, which seems about right: It recently launched men’s styles, plus it’s gearing up to launch a shoe collaboration and, Barron said, a Re/Done brick-and-mortar store is on the horizon.
Barron shared with Glossy more about his future plans and what exactly goes into a running a luxury fashion brand built on vintage.
How did the idea to remake denim come about?
Really, we were just at lunch one day, and Jamie pointed out the fact that every girl wants to wear vintage Levi’s, but they’re hard to find — and they’re made for men. At the time, girls who were tenacious enough were finding the jeans then finding a good tailor who could turn them into women’s jeans. He asked if I thought it was possible to take a pair of jeans and make them into a new pair. I originally said no, though I thought his idea was interesting: Any time you have a product or a brand that has exclusivity, scarcity and storytelling, you’re probably going to win. We decided to try. It took us nine months to get the jeans right.
Did you start selling immediately?
We started by launching a site, in July 2014. We launched it at midnight, and in 22 minutes, we sold out of all 150 pairs. And then in the morning, when we woke up, there were 2,200 people on our waitlist. We thought it was a fluke, so we made another couple hundred pieces, and they sold out. That’s when we were like: We have a real business here.
How were you marketing them?
We thought a lot about originality — how each jean is its own style, each girl feels unique when she wears it. Our whole byline was individuality. But we quickly learned that American heritage was another important pillar. I started thinking: Maybe we should be this brand that takes all the best heritage brands America has to offer and brings them to the design level.
Which did you consider “the best,” besides Levi’s?
One was Hanes. I went to Mr. Hanes, and I said, ‘I’m not interested in buying old, vintage T-shirts.’ Dirty jeans are one thing, dirty T-shirts are gross. He let me look at the T-shirts he made in every decade, and he gave me the details on how he made the fabric in the ’50s and ’60s. I learned to make it. That’s why people just love our T-shirts; they’re like clones of vintage t-shirts. After that, we connected with other brands, and then we also launched our own brand of T-shirts and jeans.
How do you work with Levi’s?
We’re great friends. We have an arrangement: We partner on this project, on what it looks like, and we do marketing together. It’s really cool.
Champion sweatshirt, from Re/Done
Same for Champion?
That one’s unique. How we work with Hanes is very similar to how we work with Levi’s. With Champion, which is actually owned by Hanes, we kind of just do it. Sweatshirts are hard to make because getting the right ones to work with is challenging. We don’t make as many [as we do other styles], but they’re great for us.
Is everything you do is made in L.A.?
Yes, that’s very important to us. We would only do it here, we’re not into making stuff in other countries. It’s very challenging, but making anything is challenging when there are many different people involved. Once you put the pieces in place and you cross your fingers, it really works.
For jeans, what’s the production process like?
We buy 10,000 pairs of vintage jeans at a time. After we wash them, we have to measure every one of them because the label size is no longer the correct measurement. Over about 20 years, they jeans have shrunk or they’ve grown. We’ll start with a size 36 — remember, they’re men’s jeans — and we’ll turn them into a 26. It just goes into a production cycle of taking it apart, cutting it, sewing it, then they washing it again. We have our own factory. We can do 10,000 pieces in a month. There are 45-50 people in the company now, and we’re adding more: design people, production people, marketing people. When we first started, there were three or four.
How focused are you on transparency and sustainability?
On the Levi’s side, it’s a bi-product of what we do: We are recycling or upcycling old, vintage jeans. Automatically, that turns you into an ethically minded brand. Not everything we do is that way, but everything we do is made in Los Angeles. And we don’t buy fabric from other countries; everything has to be made in America. I know who our sewers are because they work for me. And we pay them a good wage because they’re artisans, not typical factory sewers. So that eliminates a lot of problems.
Where do most of your sales happen?
As far as online and in-store, it’s pretty equal. When it comes to our wholesale to retail partners, 70 percent is international. We want our site and our very selective retailers, like Barneys, to be the drivers here in America. But outside of America, we’re huge: We’re very big in Japan, we’re big in France — we’re in Colette. Every store a brand wants to be in, we’re in.
You’re also big on Instagram.
Instagram is funny, because it’s all user-generated content. That’s why it’s so good for us [@shopredone has 158,000 followers]. When we put campaign images on there, they don’t do as well. It’s really a pure, authentic community. There are probably 500-600 posts a day featuring Re/Done. We just choose the ones that we think are cool, and we regram them.
How do you choose who you collaborate with?
At this stage, we could do a design collaboration with pretty much anyone. We choose people who are into what we’re into. With [model] Elsa Hosk, she makes her own jeans, and in her off time, she’s always vintage shopping. It was the perfect collaboration, She came to us and said, ‘This is what I want to make. Can you make it for me?’ We did it, and it’s been a great success. The same with Leandra [Medine] — and we have more coming.
What are your thoughts on Vetements, which is doing something similar?
That brand’s awesome; they’re an amazing brand. We started it first — they came in after we did it — but [Demna Gvasalia] is very talented. He makes some cool stuff.
Are there conflicts because you work with the same brands?
I don’t think so. It’s like we’re like minds, but they work much more from a high-fashion standpoint; it’s the same premise, but a different take on it. Their jeans are $1,500.