Is there any retail strategy hotter than direct-to-consumer right now? From swimsuits to leather jackets to activewear, just about every new label is looking to disrupt fashion with this e-commerce model.
Mott & Bow is aiming to join that growing list with its line of premium denim. The fabric is in founder Alejandro Chahin's blood; his parents worked in clothing manufacturing and owned denim facilities in Honduras, where he spent his summers playing with laundry and learning all about jeans. After studying industrial engineering related to manufacturing in college, he saw a gap in the premium denim market. That might surprise anyone who's been watching the space and seen plenty of high-priced denim brands pop up. "Every single premium product brand was priced over $200, and I just think that's a ridiculous price to pay for something good," he says. "I love jeans, and it's just too much money."
Chahin saw that most of these brands were stuck in wholesale supply chains. He could start a direct-to-consumer brand that would deliver the same premium denim at half the price; women's styles at Mott & Bow start at $96 and go up to $128. "Theoretically, in e-commerce, they could price what we price, but then they'd be undercutting all their sales channels," he says. Because of his familiarity with the market, it only took a few months of research to find sources (the denim comes from two mills, in Turkey and Italy) and development (Mott & Bow is manufactured in Chahin's family facility) before the brand was ready to launch in 2014. But unlike many of its denim and direct-to-consumer competitors, Mott & Bow launched exclusively with men's styles.
"My expertise — and just being a guy — [men's] was easier for me to make decisions before I grew the team and before I grew sales, so I didn't have to second guess myself that much," Chahin explains. "There was a bigger pain point in the convenience in guys than in women; guys like not going shopping to a mall, while women might enjoy the occasion with a few friends."
Mott & Bow only expanded into women's in May of this year, focusing on three key styles: two skinny jeans — a high-rise and mid-rise — and one boyfriend style. The washes, too, are simple. Chahin believes offering too many products results in clearance sales, which he feels are unfair to customers willing to pay full price. "I think it's up to the company to plan correctly so it's a fair price all year long," he says. "We're not trying to be the first in everything; [just] modern basics that will be a staple in your wardrobe."
That means no-frills, minimal-detail denim in basic washes, all named after New York City streets. (As is the name of the brand itself: Mott and Bowery, which means it's pronounced 'bau' like the front of a ship, not 'boe' like the finishing touch of a gift). The focus for Mott & Bow is all about fit and consistency, trying to find new denims that offer superior stretch that prevents the dreaded sagging around the butt and knees.
Eventually, Mott & Bow wants to bring that affordable, premium-quality ethos to other wardrobe basics. Chahin feels there are other staples where customers are searching for luxury goods that won't leave them feeling "cheated," and promises entry into an unnamed new product category at the end of the year. Since simplicity is the defining factor of Mott & Bow, Chahin won't rush into anything without being able to deliver — but he certainly hopes to.
"Every time you're looking for a basic that is a staple in your wardrobe, you think of Mott & Bow — that's the goal of the brand," Chahin says. "There's a lot of value brands out there, but we want to go higher; we don't think it's been done yet."