Built on denim foundations but ever expanding, we explore Jeff Rudes’ house.
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Last Thursday Matches and J Brand threw an intimate house party to celebrate the arrival of the label’s ready-to-wear collections. Moments after presenting their well received autumn/winter 2013 offering in New York, the team flew to London and made themselves at home inside the retailer’s ornate townhouse. Alongside models draped over luxurious furnishings, rails alive with butter soft leather jackets, denim cut offs and designer collaborations, J. Brand’s CEO and Founder Jeff Rudes stood proudly, watching over proceedings. With over thirty years in the industry, Rudes has helped transform the humble jean in to a fashion fixation and you’d forgive him if he were to rest on his denim laurels but with J Brand he consistently strives to excite and evolve each season. i-D caught up with the denim deity to talk fabric and unexpected expectations.
At the Autumn/Winter 13 presentation yesterday, Creative Director Donald Oliver said that the design team always starts with denim. That’s right. For all of the design teams, it has to begin with fabric. Technology is changing fabric. It’s not like it used to be where fabric changed very little over two decades, now ever year we‘ve got advancements and so much more choice. We are always looking and testing what fits best. The design team starts there and once they’ve made their choice, they put it in to the silhouettes rather than designing the silhouette and then finding the fabric.
Is fabric the most important consideration for J.Brand? That’s what sets quality merchandise apart. As a buyer, you know when the leather of a jacket is great, or when the white shirt has amazing poplin. You can’t fool the discerning customer so when we are shopping for raw materials, they have to be the best.
What sparked your love affair with fabric and clothing? Wow, that’s a great loaded question. For as long as I can rememeber, it has always be about looking and feeling good and then it is about quality. You can copy style but you can’t copy quality.
You’ve been in the industry for 30 years, what have been the most striking changes? The industry has changed and so has the consumer. The consumer is smarter. Areas that might not be considered as fashion before are now being considered as such. Product assortment has improved and now you have consumers responding in places that were neglected twenty years ago. Today, it is the same thing in Atlanta, Georgia as it is in Chicago, as it is in New York and London – fashion is relevant everywhere and it is accessible the world over.
Is that what excites you? It is. Seeing people have a real passion for new things in fashion has changed, especially for men who are now excited when a new season hits. We always speak to our customers and people always want to know what’s new. It’s always evolving and the consumer is becoming ever smarter and demanding in what they want. It has to be right, you can’t fool anybody.
Our ‘The Alphabetical Issue’ and is an a-z of now. If you could use just a few words to describe the latest collection landing in Matches, what would they be? We always like to have the customer be curious for the unexpected. There’s a term that we came up with and you’re the first we’ve told outside of the company. It is the ‘unexpected expectation’. What is an unexpected expectation? Well, our customer has come to expect newness from us. There’s a real curiosity. Could it be a new collaboration, what’s Christopher (Kane) going to do next? There’s consistently this second guessing. The ‘unexpected expectation’ is that the customer doesn’t know what will be next but there’s an expectation that it has to be good. There’s always that demand from our customer.
Is this daunting, exciting or a mixture of both? It’s exciting because it keeps us on our toes. We get in every day and we’re passionate about creating. Whenever we get complacent, that will resonant through our stores right through to our customers. Once we’ve enticed them, we have to keep them brand loyal by feeding them good product. We like being challenged, it would be boring if we weren’t challenged.
Without giving too much away for upcoming ‘unexpected expectations’, what’s next? It’s all about women’s ready to wear due to the expansion. Also, the men’s ready to wear will launch for autumn/winter 2014 and we’re really excited about that because we know that our consumer wants it.
The J. Brand SS13 collection is now available at matchesfashion.com
Text: Steve Salter
Images: Courtesy of Matches