CEO TALK: MICHAEL SILVER ON ‘WE FIT’
If you caught our post a few weeks ago about the new fall campaign, you probably learned a little bit about We Fit—our brand, our mantra and the words we live by every day here at Silver Jeans Co. But today, we sat down with our creator, founder and CEO, Michael Silver to take you even deeper into what that really means, talking denim (obviously), inclusivity and how we’re setting ourselves apart from other brands. Read on for the full interview.
What does ‘We Fit’ mean to you?
To sum it up in a word or two, it means we here at Silver Jeans Co., we know. We know how to look at body fit. We know how to make jeans. We know how tough it is to be happy with a denim purchase and we understand the challenge. We utilize all of our experience from producing literally 50,000,000 jeans to help us understand the fabrics, the sewing technologies and the wash and laundering processes. Then we combine of all those things into designing and producing jeans that simply fit.
How do you think ‘We Fit’ represents the Silver Jeans Co. brand?
We fit because we know. We have learned through producing millions of jeans how to make a pair that fits your body, your lifestyle, your budget and your life.
What are your thoughts on the fall campaign and how it represents the ‘We Fit’ message?
The fall campaign is wonderfully orchestrated to show all of Silver Jeans Co.’s fans (or potential fans) that we understand people are all different, yet beautiful. We really worked towards showing off all that we do in terms of body type, fashion and technology, engineering jeans and making them fit.
Being all-inclusive is a big trend in denim. How do you think we do it differently than other brands?
We have been naturally inclusive throughout our entire brand history. Silver Jeans Co. has always studied the nuances of different body heights, inseams and hip, thigh and waist measurements, working diligently to make every size fit—not just the model size for the shot, but every pair.
It’s interesting that “inclusivity” is currently a popular thing for a denim brand to talk about. We’ve been doing tall sizing, plus sizes and a variety of inseams for almost 20 years, with our parent brand Western Glove Works producing inclusive sizes for more than 90 years. It is part of our DNA to offer the best-fitting jeans to all bodies, since our brands’ inception.
The ‘We Fit’ message goes far beyond just fit. What other areas do you think it applies to?
We believe the statement really speaks to the Silver Jeans Co. brand: we not only fit your body, but we fit your expectation of comfort, we fit your budget, we fit your lifestyle, we fit your life. We fit, and aim to exceed your expectation of quality and value.
What was it about your role in Private Label Sales that truly motivated you to start Silver Jeans Co.?
When I made private label denim, I learned to listen to what each retailer or brand thought were the most important elements for their customers. Often the client would have their own specific list of attributes that they thought they needed in a denim product. The list often included price, a certain fashionability, perhaps the latest trends, a value content and sometimes even measurements and specifications.
We learned after creating product for literally hundreds of retailers that stores had a perception of what their consumers wanted and that consumers had an idea. That gave us an invaluable encyclopedia of information on likes and dislikes. This helped us when we formed our brand to not necessarily influence us, but to give us a good understanding of the massive variation of preferences in the market place.
How has the Silver Jeans Co. brand evolved from its inception in 1991?
It certainly has evolved just based on experience and listening and watching. We set out at the brands’ beginning to make the very best jean we could, that fit everyone, and that desire and goal remains today. We are 27-years smarter, learning about the technology of designing, producing and delivering a great-fitting pair of jeans.
Every day, we learn something new. Some of it is based on the technical elements of manufacturing. We are also fortunate enough to utilize the latest developments in fabrics and manufacturing processes. But as I say, in many ways, Silver Jeans Co. is exactly the same company. We are eager to learn, eager to improve and happy to gain experience to further our goal, while at the same time grateful for the experience and lessons that our heritage and history has instilled in us.
Has your role changed in recent years with the evolution of the digital shopping?
I am not sure my role has changed dramatically, but I more think my day-to-day has changed. I have spent a large part of my career shopping streets and malls to learn buyer and fashion trends, traveling the world doing so. Now, I travel the world from the convenience of my iPad or phone, looking at trends from influencers rather than fashion magazines, and visiting digital stores rather than walking streets.
I still find I need to see what real people in real environments are wearing, so while I might travel less, I still like to visualize how my products will be worn in the real world and what their specific environments are like. I certainly spend more time focused on how our brand looks and feels to users of digital devices, and how to ensure our brand is understood in this new digital environment.
How does the Silver Jeans Co. brand stay true to its roots while still evolving with the new customer shopping habits and trends?
I think it’s very easy for Silver Jeans Co. to stay true to its roots, that being making the best jean we can. We just have to find the right new techniques to teach our consumer of its value. In the old days, I could rely on sales clerks and signage in stores to inform consumers of the attributes of my brand. Now, I need to find new messages and new ways to message consumers. I must find a way to stand out in a much more crowded space. Anyone can now create a direct-to-consumer brand and try and convince everyone they “get it “— but they seldom do. It busies the digital space with so many new brands claiming to know how to make great jeans, that even the ones that truly DO get drowned out by the noise of everyone shouting that they do too!
What is the most noticeable change you’ve seen in our customers and the way they interact with the brand?
Certainly all consumers expect to be shown the latest fashion trends and new items quicker than the standard four seasons. Everyone is becoming used to instant gratification and our customers are no different. I also think, due to certain successful online entities, everyone is expecting broader and broader assortment of product, once again available immediately.
Our familiar customer wants something new and wants something they used to buy, both at the same time. Our new consumers are expecting an ever-changing assortment of fashion available the next day. The problem may be that truly great product that is engineered, designed and manufactured properly to fit, cannot come as quick as poorly-conceived, quick-to-market product seems to.
Has it changed the way you work with your teams and come up with ideas for product?
The most significant change has been in the design and marketing areas: Our design team is bombarded daily with hot new trend messages and up-and-coming looks or brands. They need to sift through all of this daily to make sure we stay on point and talk to our consumers in the right light. In the marketing world, we now have to strategize very carefully about what our message is, who will we deliver it to and how. Digital technology is fantastic in that it allows us to reach so many more people, but that simply means so many more people are being approached by so many more brands. We need to speak clearly and precisely about our brand, we need to study what the consumers want us to tell them and by what method, digitally. Through both of these departments we will utilize our direct-to-consumer Silver Jeans Co site to offer product quicker and more tailored to our consumer.
What is the most important lesson you’ve learned from being in the denim industry for over 50 years?
Stay true to your heart, your love, your passions. We started the brand to offer the best jean at the best price with comfort, fashion and value in mind, and we have not wavered. I have learned that if you stray and begin to follow what you think others are doing, because you think they are successful, you are not spending enough time on what you are doing. I have seen brands all come and go with a few exceptions—the mighty, the cool, the hot, the cheap, the expensive. I have learned to not follow those paths—we will follow our own path.
What’s your favorite part about working in the denim industry?
That you get to make a real life product for real people from the design inception, to working out the thousands of details to get it manufactured, sold, distributed and marketed precisely as you envisioned it. Then to see people actually enjoying it, it is truly a wonderful thing and nothing can ever replace that feeling.
How do you describe the Silver Jeans Co. brand to people?
I describe our company precisely as I have since 1991: we are jeaners. We craft blue jeans for people to enjoy their comfort, their fit. While many companies sell fashion, or sell price, or sell value or lifestyle, we just make jeans to make new friends. Our jeans are our introduction to you and everyone who tries us to be our friend, join our family, for life.
How would you describe yourself?
Like my brand I feel the happiest when I am pleasing people. I think I was put on earth to simply make sure all my personal and business interactions make others feel good. I am certainly more concerned about how you may feel than about how I personally may feel. I am an optimist that believes if I spread just a little love, a little happiness and some great jeans to the world, it will be a better place.
Beyond that, I have always professionally considered myself a denimologist, one who is consumed with the study of designing, manufacturing and marketing denim product.
What are some new innovations coming up that make you excited about the brand’s future?
From a product perspective, fabric innovation continues to be very exciting for us, allowing much more comfort in traditional denim looks. The stretch and retention in fabrics continue to improve. In our design process, we are now able to combine the data from sales with digital design, allowing us to even greater refine the perfect fit. Avatars are now used in combination with traditional fit mannequins and real fit models to, again, get us closer to the perfect fit for every body. Additionally, the use of digital marketing is allowing us to reach and speak to many more consumers and allow us to understand them as well as teach them more about our brand and what we’re all about. Exciting things are on the way, and I can’t wait for everyone to see.