Into an already crowded jean market, how can Revtown breakthrough? That was my question to founder and CEO Henry Stafford when I learned about his Pittsburgh-based startup Revtown. His answer was simple, “We all wear jeans, and everybody buys jeans. All of us in this company have been wearing jeans every single day to work for years, but we didn’t love the product. If we could make jeans people actually loved, then people would buy our jeans.”
Stafford says he grew up in the jean business, having originally launched his career in denim at American Eagle Outfitters, then moving on to Under Armour for six years. In founding Revtown, he is joined by other Under Armour alums, including Steve Battista, former senior vice president of creative with the company, and Matt Maasdam, the former head of the company’s e-commerce unit.
Together the team defined the challenge, “How do we take the experience that we had building athletic apparel and put that same mentality into designing an amazing pair of jeans?”
The need: Jeans people want to wear at home
In researching the market, they found people aged 20-to-40 years were wearing jeans 5 out of 7 days a week, but the problem was as soon as they got home, they were taking their jeans off and pulling on something more comfortable. Men were changing into training pants or athletic shorts and women into yoga pants.
“We set a challenge to our design team to make high quality, premium-designed jeans that had to be comfortable and mobile enough to rival anything in the athletic world. That took over a year,” Stafford says.
The key to the design process, they discovered, was the jean’s fabrication and they had to go a mill outside Milan, Italy to find it. “It all comes down to the fabric and material development. We came up with Decade Denim fabric on which to build our jeans,” Stafford explains.
“Our fabric offers great mobility, great comfort, and it’s also woven with the strongest fibres that are used in apparel today, so it is incredibly durable. The fabrication is our innovation. There is nothing like it out there in the denim industry,” he continues.
The opportunity: Premium look at an affordable price
With the right fabric in hand, for which Stafford adds they pay a premium price, they turned to a factory in Guatemala. “Our jeans are cut, sewn, and washed by our manufacturing partner who’s made over 150 million pairs of jeans.
They make great products there, and they do incredible washes. They are enabling us to scale quickly which is critical to our lean-operating, speed-to-market model,” Stafford says, adding that manufacturing in this hemisphere was critical in the decision.
The efficiencies achieved through its business model allows Revtown to price its premium jeans at a flat $79 per pair, which means they can compete with mass-brands like Levi’s and Gap on one end and premium brands found in department stores and specialty boutiques on the other.
In the jean market today, Stafford sees the opportunity for Revtown to use a fast-fashion approach but to deliver high-quality products with it. “There is too much product out there where people are getting gouged because the model is so inefficient that the prices are way too high. We wanted to break through, so the team shares that passion to create something innovative and efficient,” he says.
Revtown’s business model, which Stafford says is another important innovation in the denim industry, makes that $79 price point possible. “Almost every denim company out there does about 90% of their revenue on 10% of the SKUs. The remainder of the SKUs are inefficiency,” he explains.
“For us, it’s very simple; we just focus on the top 10%. We offer the best colours, the best washes. We don’t have inventory sitting in dead stores or warehouses. When we have demand, we cut, sew, wash the product and that ultimately allows us to keep inventories lean, react to consumer demand and to be in size and stock very quickly,” he continues.
Taking Revtown jeans to market
Under Revtown’s lean-and-mean business model, which comes naturally to co-founder Maasdam, who served 14 years as a Navy SEAL, the company will launch with a men’s jean line in two basic styles, Sharp for a more refined look and Automatic for “any guy, any time, any place,” the company describes. Filling out the men’s line will be a selection of four casual Pima cotton shirt styles. A women’s product line with the same DNA will be offered later this year.
Revtown launched direct-to-consumer via e-commerce in keeping with its speed-to-market model. “It’s no secret that e-commerce is growing far greater than any other channel of distribution out there and it will continue to grow,” Stafford says.
“We look at consumer products and consumer experiences as two different things. I believe people will leave their homes to go to an experience. But they want products delivered to them at home. They want to touch and feel that product for the first time at home and reduce the friction of having to get into the car and go to the mall. The bedroom is the new dressing room,” he says.
Revtown also has an answer to the subscription model that is becoming so ubiquitous in fashion e-commerce today, called the Crate. Rather than signing up for a regular shipment of new products, the customer can order a new wardrobe, once and done.
“We will give you the convenience to update your wardrobe immediately. Pick four things, and we will throw in the fifth shirt on us, and in three clicks you have a new wardrobe: a couple of pairs of jeans and three shirts. We think it’s a great way for people to update their wardrobe quickly and refresh things. And it is also incredible gift-giving,” Stafford explains and adds that at $228 the price of a Crate is less than one would pay for a pair of designer jeans at a department store.
“We think that’s an amazing ridiculous price for the consumer and we are happy to provide that. In our lean-operating model, it enables us to be efficient so we can put all that money back into the consumer’s pocket,” he shares.
In concluding our discussion, Stafford explains that being based in Pittsburgh, a Rust Belt town that is experiencing a renaissance through new industries, is an important part of the company’s story. “Among this group, we all grew up in Rust Belt towns. It’s part of the fabric of America. And we see denim as the iconic American fabric,” he says.
So in naming the company – Revtown – three words kept coming up in their plans for the business:
- Revitalising the jean market with a new business model,
- Revolutionising the way someone buys jeans, and
- Reveling, or celebrating why they are in business.
“‘Town’ is because we are really proud of the towns that we’re from and what that means,” Stafford continues.
“Pittsburg is a hard-working town. It’s an innovative town. So that’s where we came up with the name ‘Revtown,'” he concludes, adding, “This is a fun business. We get to make product and market it and sell it. And that’s fun, and we revel in the fact that we can do that.”
(Speaker, author and market researcher, Pamela Danziger is internationally recognised for her expertise on the world’s most influential consumers: the American Affluent, including the HENRYs (high-earners-not-rich-yet) mass affluent. As founder of Unity Marketing in 1992, Pam leads with research to provide brands with actionable insights into the minds of their most profitable customers. She is also a principal with Retail Rescue, which offers focussed and effective consulting, training and mentorship in retail management, marketing, sales, and operations and partner in The American Marketing Group, which provides consultation and marketing support to home furnishings companies. In addition, she provides public relations consulting and content creation through Jill Schmidt PR.)