It was at a Project Las Vegas show about a year and a half ago that Joe Lafko first met Trinidad Garcia III, founder of Trinidad3 Jeans. “We’d both served in the Marines, we’re both dads with young kids, we share similar views on denim business. I told him he could pick my brain over drinks at The Cosmopolitan as long as he took care of the drinks. He did, we clicked, and we now have a growing denim brand with an authentic mission.”
As Lafko tells it, after a five- to six-month dance, he joined the company as managing partner. He chose Trinidad3 because he truly believed in the brand: made and sourced in the USA, great value proposition (retails between $169-$199; retailer margins starting at 60 percent), and a genuine charity connection that benefits veterans. “Retailers today have demanded exceptional product and a great brand story,” he maintains. “Trinidad3 is one of very few with both. We’re about to break a new marketing campaign on social media. And although the brand does some DTC, its primary focus is men’s specialty stores.”
Lafko, who’s been in the brand development end of the business for seven years with several well-heeled premium brands, is not shy about voicing his thoughts on the future of brand development and retailing. “Denim has been a key player in the continued growth of casual sportswear. Product-wise, I see leg openings and thigh widths becoming larger (most averaging 15-16 inches), and fabrics becoming lighter and softer. Brand-wise, many prominent labels have transitioned to an e-commerce focused model. Levi’s is a good example of this with entire quarters (Q3 and Q4 2020) showing internet-based sales leading the company’s growth. In some cases, brands have left the wholesale marketplace altogether as is the case with J Brand.”
Asked how retailers can grow their denim sales going forward, Lafko has three suggestions:
- Have a good grasp of customer trend, fit and demand data. Brands have to know what you need, when you need it and why in order to best serve you. It’s in our mutual best interest to share this information so we can plan for it and grow together.
- Variety is the spice of life. Having more than one assortment from more than two labels is worth trying. There’s no need to “go hog” on tons of new brands, but shaking things up with newness is something customers like to see, especially in men’s. Carrying on with the “same old, same old” has taken a toll, as consumers need reasons to spend more dollars in brick-and-mortar stores vs. online. Balancing product-driven labels with story-driven labels is a solid recipe for success.
- Engage with younger consumers through social media. A majority of them now find new brands, new friends, even national news entirely on social media. If that’s where they spend a majority of their time, it makes sense to be there in a meaningful way. Denim plays especially well on social media as its popularity is universal.