Corey Epstein, Co-Founder and Creative Director of DSTLD Denim
By BANU IBRAHIM
We're going to make a bold claim: Nothing can beat denim.
Jeans of all iterations have long been a staple of American culture and fashion. Whether your denim M.O. gravitates towards distressed or dressed up, there seems to be a variation to suit everyone's needs. And because of its versatility, it can no longer be considered a pant for just laid-back occasions -- modern day runway trends have allowed the fabric to translate into night outs and even workwear attire.
So the problem many face with jeans really has nothing to do with styling; the problem lies with denim's accessibility. Quality denim, something you'd find from premium brands like Rag & Bone and 7 For All Mankind, often times isn't affordable to the everyday shopper. And that becomes a huge problem. Think about it. If you're like us, you wear your go-to pairs multiple times in a week. Cheaper versions won't stand up to that test like a luxury brand can.
That's where DSTLD denim comes into play. The brand conceptualized from the ground-up by co-founders Corey Epstein and Mark Lynn, aims to give shoppers the high-end jeans they desire without the retail markup. By cutting out the middleman, DSTLD can give shoppers durable denim they need, but for half of the price of their competitors. Prices for jeans run as little as $65 bucks.
Epstein and Lynn's distinct vision and progressive platform has turned DSTLD into one of the most coveted online fashion brands around. DSTLD is stripped down to the essentials: quality materials, fashion-forward designs, and a high moral fiber (literally). All creations are eco-friendly and are 100% sweatshop-free, so not only will your wallet feel guilt-free, so will your conscience.
To help your wardrobe get back to the basics, we've enlisted Corey Epstein, Co-Founder and Creative Director of DSTLD to "distill" us with some denim knowledge. Ahead, Epstein dishes on how ethics plays a major role in his designs, how DSTLD denim comes to life, and his proudest career moment (hint: it includes Cara Delevingne).
What was your background before DSTLD?
I've always had an entrepreneur side. In high school, I founded 303 Magazine, which focused on the convergence of music, dining, fashion, and art (which is still around today!). I sold the magazine to our distributor three issues in. For the next five years I focused on building websites and helping other companies brand and market themselves. I eventually went to college at Loyola Marymount University at 21 and then earned my MBA from UCLA before going to work as a Management Consultant at Deloitte for two years.
How was DSTLD born? How did you past experiences shape how you created the brand's business model and core values?
I started dating a girl who was selling off-price clothing online. Learning that brands were dumping tons of great inventory for a couple bucks a piece in the off-price market exposed me to the inefficiencies of the apparel industry. I learned about the multi-tier markup system in fashion, where traditional brands make a product and sell that for two to three times markup to a department store or boutique, which is then marked up two to three times higher to the customer. This means that a pair of jeans that costs $30 to make is being sold for as much as $270 to the end customer. As someone who would never spend more than $100 on jeans, I thought there had to be a better way to deliver luxe-quality clothing to customers.
I am a creative and I think DSTLD is a reflection of my desire to be stylish but understated. Artists appreciate quality and minimalism which can only be achieved by creating a line of staple pieces that are produced using quality. But we don't need a luxury label to define ourselves.
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What's the process of a design coming to life? Who are the key players who help conceptualize your denim and turn it into a reality?
At DSTLD, we are looking for the most essential styles, so let's say we start with the premise that having the perfect black jean is an integral part of someone's wardrobe. Then we think about what makes the perfect black jeans. This includes fabric, fit, construction, and wash. Denim is both an art and a science, so our team includes Creative and Technical Designers, Pattern Makers, Fabric Sourcers, and Sample Makers.
Can you talk more about the role ethics plays in your manufacturing process?
Much of the unethical practices in the apparel industry are driven by the race to the bottom prevalent at low-cost fast fashion players like H&M and retailers like Walmart. We are not trying to make the least expensive jeans in the world, that market is already saturated. We are trying to make the highest quality available, on par with top contemporary and luxury brands, and offer it at a fair price to customers. Because of this, we don't work with low-cost producers, but only work with premium producers in quality manufacturing markets with fair labor practices. We find that by taking care of our suppliers and not creating unreasonable price pressures ensures that factories are able to pay fair wages and offer a better work environment.
I feel like denim is so rooted in American culture as a timeless staple. But that being said, it does feel like its always evolving. How have you noticed this change, and how do runway and style trends affect how DSTLD creates jeans?
There are some things that absolutely haven't changed in the denim game. For instance, raw denim and Japanese and Italian are denim always highly sought after in the men's premium market. On the other hand, for women, flares have made a big comeback. We consider trends very seriously, and if we decide to design a "trend" piece for our line, it's because we feel it's an essential part of today's closet.
A post shared by DSTLD (@dstld) on Dec 28, 2015 at 6:37pm PST
If you could describe your design process in one word, what would it be?
Why cut out the retailer or "middle man"?
The middle man is where all of the superfluous markups happen, and where customers get the short end of the stick. Our name (pronounced 'distilled') plays on the fact that we're removing the unnecessary markup to mark down game, and selling you premium product at the best price you can get it for.
How would you describe the DSTLD customer?
Creative. Educated. He/she likes to pay for quality, but is too smart to overpay. They wear a lot of black.
What do you think is the most common denim mistake people make?
Overpaying for jeans! But from a style perspective, wearing jeans that don't fit them properly.
What has been your proudest moment so far in your DSTLD career?
I think it's pretty insane Cara Delevingne and Kendall Jenner are wearing DSTLD and we have only been around for 16 months. The response has been so exciting and we are really excited about what's in the pipeline for the DSTLD collection!
To shop the styles, head over to DSTLD now!
For more denim trends, scroll through the gallery below:
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