We talk traditions, trends and the future of denim jeans, with the man who’s passionate about all things concerning the timeless fabric.
Hi Alex, tell us more about your role in the company.
I’m one of three co-founders, the other two being my brother and father. As the CEO and Creative Director, I work with our design, brand and communications teams to set the general direction of the company and how we can develop the brand going forward. My brother handles the logistics and my dad does the sourcing of the denim.
What’s a typical day in the office like for you?
There’s no typical day to be honest. I never know what I’m going to be doing on any given day. I tend to spend a lot of time speaking to the employees in the various departments and trying to make things happen. At one moment, we can be talking about developing our e-commerce site, and at the next, we can be discussing fabric qualities and looking at design sketches for the next season. Being involved in everything is part of the job.
This is a third-generation family business that started off manufacturing denim, and it wasn’t till your brother and you came on board that it transitioned to making denim jeans. Was starting Dr. Denim a natural step to take?
I got my first pair of stone-washed jeans and matching jacket when I was just two years old. My brother and I constantly saw pieces of jeans and fabrics all over the place and we even visited the jeans factories, so it’s always been part of our lives. Growing up, we developed this interest in the history of denim, the different expressions and what it means culturally. We have this attraction to it, and we knew that if we wanted to do something of our own, it had to be denim-related.
What important lessons did your father and grandfathers impart to you?
They’ve always had a “stand on your own feet” and “roll up your sleeves” attitude to work. We’ve been raised with the mentality of working very hard and to never be in debt. The company’s always been self-financed and we choose to develop the brand slowly in a way that we can be satisfied with and proud of. To set a good example, we’re always the first to come and last to leave the workplace.
Ten years is a pretty long time in the business. What’s one highlight and one low point?
It’s been an amazing journey. Opening our first store in Stockholm back in October 2014 was a big highlight to me. It was the first time we were able to build our little universe and make it available to people. As for low points, on one occasion, we had a production run go wrong, where the fabric had a hidden fault in it. We delivered the stock to stores and started getting returns because of the flaw.
There was this feeling that we disappointed the stores and consumers, because we fell short of their expectations and the standards that we keep. It caused a lot of frustration and we knew that there were assumptions that we didn’t care enough about what we do or had grown too quickly and stopped focusing on quality. But that wasn’t the case at all.
Fashion trends are constantly evolving. Has denim jeans changed, in terms of fit, cutting, colors, since you started out?
You can say it’s changed a lot, or very little I suppose. When we started, the whole skinny thing was still quite new. In the last decade or so, a lot of people have predicted its death several times, but it’s still going strong. In some ways, denim products change a bit slower than you might think. With that said, in the last year, we’ve seen cropped flares for women coming into the picture.
We often associate streetwear with what’s happening in the USA, but tell us, how’s the scene like in Sweden?
It’s grown a lot and is completely different now compared to five years ago. Many well-known American streetwear brands have gained quite a presence here. The people in Scandinavia like to match streetwear with homegrown fashion items, while staying true to minimalism. We don’t go all out, but choose to add elements together and blend things a little.
Besides Sweden, which country or city has been a great source of inspiration?
Berlin is a great source of inspiration because it’s a big city for artists. It’s very progressive; there are a lot of strong sub-cultures there. It’s truly a very inspirational place to be.
Japanese denim plays a huge role in streetwear. What’s your take on it?
There’s no denying that Japanese denim is fascinating. Japan is absolutely world-leading when it comes to caring about ethos and denim heritage. They’re very big on that and have some of the world’s leading denim mills. For that, they’re second to none. I think every denim lover should have a pair of Japanese craft denim in their wardrobe.
As a specialist in denim fabrics, has Dr. Denim made innovations of its own?
Dr. Denim leans toward evolution rather than revolution. We’ve developed some fabrics that go against the established logic of what the material should be, such as denim-based constructions that offer an amazing flexibility in the fabric without losing the original expression. The brand has also produced some amazing women’s fits which contours to the body perfectly.
What’s coming up for Dr. Denim in 2016?
Besides increasing our presence in USA, we’ll be creating products that are an expressive interpretation of the 90s. We’re also focusing a lot on developing sustainability. Organic cotton will make up about 20% of our denim jeans and 50% of our other cotton-based products from Autumn 2016 onward, with the percentages increasing with every collection. Alternative fibers, like Tencel, will also be introduced.
If you could sum up Dr. Denim’s philosophy in a nutshell, what would you say is most defining about the brand?
We have this mantra that we live by — “Everyday is a denim day”. I think that’s how we approach the work we do, but it’s also how we see denim out there in the world. Denim’s something that should be there to take you through the day so you can focus on what it is you do, like producing something creative for a magazine.