Q&A: Edwin raising the denim bar for AW19
Japanese denim brand Edwin is taking the bold step to raise its entry price point denim by 40% for AW19 to elevate the brand using more premium fabrics. Sales director, Charlie Warren, and denim developer, Niels Mulder, give their take on the new direction.
As your entry price point equates to 40% of Edwin’s turnover on denim bottoms, why have you taken the decision to elevate the entry price points?
Charlie Warren: Edwin is a Japanese denim brand so it made complete sense for us to work only with Japanese fabrics with our 5-pocket denim. Our consumer expects the best quality when buying a pair of Edwin jeans and we felt that we weren’t providing this to the best of our ability whilst using inferior fabrics. Yes, there will be a jump in price point, but we feel this is warranted with the increased quality of our denim. The entry price point will jump from £80 to £110 but our consumer will have a better experience with our new fabrics.
How do you think retailers will react to this?
CW: We have spoken to many of our key customers already and the response has been really positive. To have a Japanese fabric at this price point is good value and we think the end consumer is becoming more conscious of the origin of the fabrics they wear.
What customers are you targeting with this new higher end approach?
CW: We already deal with some of the best retailers in Europe and we are confident that we will maintain our current distribution with our new direction. As a result of this approach, our denim collection may become more appealing to some more premium stores which can only be positive for the brand.
Won’t you be losing some Edwin fans who won’t be willing to go up to the new price points?
CW: I think true Edwin fans will be happy with the decision we have made but, potentially, yes, we could lose an element of our price entry consumer. This is a big decision for the brand but one that we feel is going to strengthen our position in the denim market going forward. We hope that the end consumer will understand the increase in price, once they can see and touch the fabrics in store.
Do you think it’s important for Edwin to be primarily seen as a premium denim brand?
CW: I think it’s important that people know when they buy into Edwin they are buying into a brand with a very long history of producing high-quality denim. That was the biggest factor when making this decision, as Japanese fabrics are more expensive, but this is our heritage, our USP. We believe our entry price point is still relevant to the more commercial end of the market. For us, it’s not the most important thing to be considered a premium denim brand but more important to offer premium quality.
How many different styles of jeans will there be for AW19 and what will the wholesale and retail prices now be?
CW: We are focussing on five fits across our European collection, featuring our best-selling ED-55, ED-80 and ED-85. They will be accompanied by the ED-45 and the re-introduction of an old favourite, the ED-39. We are offering price entry non-selvage across all fits, starting at £110 RRP for rinsed/unwashed fabrics and £120 for washes. We will also be offering Japanese selvage that will start at £140 RRP for unwashed and around £180 for washes. In the ‘Made in Japan’ collection we’ll be offering two fits, ‘Regular Tapered’ and ‘Slim Tapered’ in a variety of beautiful new selvage fabrics. Prices range from £140 - £160 RRP for our new green listed stretch selvage and £160 - £270 for our non-stretch selvage offering.
Are you basically making the current top-end Japan made Edwin product now the entry?
CW: No, we will still be selling an entirely new, ‘Made in Japan’ denim collection alongside our European line. This, we consider our premium segment.
How do you intend to get the message across about these changes
CW: As with any big developments at Edwin, an omnichannel approach will be adopted to ensure that the message is consistent and complementary across all channels. A clear focus on staff training will be the first step, followed by a clear marketing campaign across digital and print to reinforce the new direction. We think in the long-term, word-of-mouth will be key for Edwin as customers begin to recognise the quality of our new Japanese fabrics. We will also be showing at Pitti Uomo, Seek, Jacket Required and CIFF in the New Year.
How are your own London retail shops performing and are there plans for any changes or additions to your own retail presence in the UK?
CW: As we all know, retail is very challenging at the moment. We have, however, seen an upturn in trade at both of our London stores over the last few months and, more importantly, much better sales results on denim due to a strong marketing campaign featuring our ‘Made in Japan’ fabrics. We are looking to expand on our retail space in Shoreditch by utilising 'The Gun Club' at the back of our building which is currently being used as a showroom and for events. We expect this to be completed early in 2019.
What is this new B2B system you are launching and how will it work?
CW: Launching soon, the Edwin B2B system will allow all customers to place orders and re-orders directly from an App using their laptop, tablet or phone. It will make life a lot easier for buyers as the system integrates directly with our stock system, allowing new product to arrive at stores with the click of a button.
What’s different and special about the Japanese fabrics you are now using?
Niels Mulder: All of the fabrics used for our 5-pocket denim for AW19 will be supplied exclusively from the Kuroki denim mill, based in Okayama, Japan.
We have chosen them as our main supplier because of the amazing knowledge, experience and craftsmanship that they put into their work. Kuroki is one of the very few Japanese mills left that still create denim from the very first cotton fibre, right through to the fabric finishing. Everything happens under one roof, including the spinning, dying and weaving. Due to the close relationship we have built with Kuroki over the years, we have been able to develop our very own fabrics at the mill. Some of the fabrics you will see for AW19 are specially made for Edwin and won't be found anywhere else on the market.
What will be different design-wise for AW19?
NM: For AW19 you will see a cohesive and contemporary approach to general styling, shape and detailing across the collection. The introduction of an 'Essentials Line' welcomes soft tailoring and the return of quality European-sourced fabrics and manufacturing. In terms of denim design, we have taken a more 'progressive' approach, introducing the cropped ‘Universe Pant’ alongside more contemporary seasonal denim styles such as the double-pleated ‘Balder Pant’ and the boxy straight cut ‘Storm Pant’.
What will be the stand-out pieces?
NM: A unique photographic all-over print featuring images of Tokyo has been applied to the ‘Reversible Jacket’, ‘Border Shirt’ and ‘Hoodie Sweat’, making them real stand-out pieces in the collection. And the development of our very own hand-drawn digi-camo has had a dramatic effect on our ‘Universe Pant’, ‘Short Street Parka’ and ‘Survival Jacket’. You'll also see fabric textures in knit and jersey categories play a big part in our mainline collection for AW19, alongside colour blocking and contemporary silhouettes. As for denim, the boxy ‘Island Puffer Jacket’ in a 12oz left-hand weave, filled with real down and finished with a chambray lining, sets a precedent for the denim collection.
What do you think will be the best-selling jeans and why?
NM: The ED-55 is always a strong contender for us in winter, but I also have high hopes for the returning ED-39. With its wider leg, the regular loose fit is a comfy option for the cold months ahead. In general, the straight/loose tapered denim in 12-14oz quality will always be popular as it has been in previous seasons.
What are the biggest trends in denim from your design perspective for AW19?
NM: From our perspective, we are seeing a lot of fabric mixes, two-tone denim, denim mixed with corduroy or denim mixed with polyester. We see patchwork denim making a bit of a comeback too.