J Brand Shifts to Direct-to-Consumer Model

J Brand, the premium denim brand owned by the Fast Retailing Group, is pivoting to a direct-to-consumer model.

The brand, which has been sold in better department and specialty stores globally since its founding in 2005, will rely exclusively on direct distribution starting with the summer 2021 collection.

“J Brand’s current business model is not aligned with the vision we have for its future. The change in direction will bring energy and focus back to a celebrated denim brand in what has become an increasingly saturated marketplace,” said Kazumi Yanai, chairman of J. Brand Inc. and group senior executive officer of Fast Retailing.

The Los Angeles-headquartered Fast Retailing Jeans Innovation Center, which opened in 2016, will continue to innovate sustainable, next-generation denim development and support denim production for the group’s brands globally, including the future J Brand assortment.

As a result of the change in business strategy, the current J Brand workforce will be reduced in coming months in proportion to the needs of the new corporate structure.

Yanai emphasized Fast Retailing’s commitment to J Brand and the denim category. “The reality of the denim market today and our ability to figure in it significantly depends on our ability to react and adapt quickly — not only to the marketplace, but also to the changing needs of our customers. Ultimately, I believe J Brand will be best served by a streamlined operation, a sharper distribution network and a greater focus on the dynamic lifestyle of the end customer. Fast Retailing’s global concept of LifeWear has never been more relevant,” said Yanai.

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In addition to its own web site, J Brand will be sold in other Fast Retailing divisions such as Uniqlo and Theory stores. It is conceivable that J Brand would open freestanding stores in the future.

The move entails withdrawing from U.S., European and Asian retail accounts starting with the summer 2021 collection. J Brand is currently sold in such retailers as Bloomingdale’s, Saks Fifth Avenue, Neiman Marcus, Bergdorf Goodman, Selfridges, Harrods, and Net-a-porter.

J Brand is part of a crowded denim scene currently populated by such brands as Frame, Joe’s Jeans, Mother, AG, Paige, DL1961, 7 for all Mankind, Citizens of Humanity, Rag & Bone, A Golde, Re/Done, and Levi’s.

Over the course of its history J Brand has been a leader in both sustainable denim and the fashion space. The company created the first true skinny jeans and introduced a skinny silhouette to the global market. It went on to introduce the high-rise skinny, Photo Ready denim and leather denim. The company’s men’s collection launched in 2008 and the first women’s ready-to-wear line was introduced in spring 2012.

Cofounded in 2005 by Jeff Rudes and Susie Crippen, J Brand  became a major force in premium denim before the company sold a majority stake to Star Avenue Capital (a three-way partnership between Star’s management, Irving Place Capital and Creative Artists Agency) in 2010 in a deal said to be worth over $50 million. At that point, Crippen left the company and Rudes stayed. Fast Retailing Co. Ltd. acquired an 80.1 percent stake in J Brand in November 2012 for $290 million, and continues to operate the company. Rudes left J Brand in 2014.

Earlier this year, J Brand branched into inclusive sizing, offering six inclusive women’s styles in sizes 33 to 38.

Over the years, J Brand has collaborated with such celebrities as Christy Turlington Burns, Elsa Hosk, Cole and Dylan Sprouse, Kate Bosworth, and Stephanie Shepherd. Most recently the company teamed with Antoni Porowski, the food and drink maverick from Netflix’s reality show “Queer Eye,” on a men’s denim collaboration that launched last month. Designer collaborations have been with Halpern, Kozaburo Akasaka, Bella Freud, Rob Pruitt, Simone Rocha, Proenza Schouler, and Christopher Kane.

 

 

 

 

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