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CITY OF COMMERCE, Calif. — The City of Others brand is aiming at college students who would rather spend their time filming documentaries, singing tunes, surfing the Internet and discussing world crises than paying more than $100 for a pair of jeans.
This story first appeared in the February 14, 2008 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Steve Dubbeldam and Steve Opperman, founders of the Iron Army premium denim label, have teamed up with Hudson Jeans to introduce the Internet-based brand that caps wholesale prices at $45. The pair want to parlay their enthusiasm and make it a focal point of the new brand. Videos for YouTube, home pages on MySpace and Facebook and mini documentaries with college students on the companies they care about and clothes they wear are among the things they’ll look to incorporate into the City of Others’ DNA.
Philanthropy will be another element of the brand and consumers will influence it. The label’s cardboard hangtag is printed with a code that customers can enter on City of Others’ Web site to select the charity that will receive a portion of the jeans’ sales. Dubbeldam said the company wants to make giving to charity a part of consumers’ lives.
“We don’t want our customers to change their buying habits,” Dubbeldam said. “We want it to be aligned with what we already do, like buying music and buying clothes.”
The inaugural fall lineup includes five women’s selections, all in a five-pocket style, including a slim leg, a boot cut, a flare with a 24-inch leg opening, a wide-leg version with a 27-inch opening and a capri intended to be worn with long boots. All the blue denim is made in Europe and the nondenim fabrics, including yarn-dyed striped twill, and gray and black denim, come from Japan. Treatments include dark resin rinses and hand-sanding.
Dubbeldam, 25, and Opperman, 24, are well-versed in high-end denim. After growing up together in Edmonton, Alberta, they founded Iron Army three years ago in their hometown. They soon moved to Los Angeles with hopes of growing their fledgling brand, which retails from $200 to $250. The problem: several of their twentysomething friends couldn’t afford Iron Army unless they bought at wholesale prices.
“I felt bad,” Dubbeldam said.
Last year, Dubbeldam and Opperman sold their stake in Iron Army and teamed up with Peter Kim, president of Hudson Jeans, to start City of Others. Kim, 37, worked in apparel for years through his parents’ business, which produces a misses’ line called Nicola. He also founded a men’s streetwear label called Drunknmunky with Tony Chu, who is now Hudson’s vice president of marketing and public relations.
“These guys are so out there and new,” Kim said of Dubbeldam and Opperman. “I don’t think there’s anything in apparel doing this with this creativity.”
Rick Spielberg, a denim veteran who oversees Hudson’s sales, said the goal is to make the first delivery of City of Others in June to the top 300 boutiques in the U.S. In November, foreign shipments will begin to 25 stores each in the U.K., Germany and Japan. Also launching a men’s line this fall, City of Others projects $5 million in wholesale volume for the first season. Hudson, which is designed by former Taverniti So and Neo designer Ben Taverniti, generated $33 million in sales in 2007.
In addition to financial backing, the tie to Hudson means that Dubbeldam and Opperman can use Hudson’s office space here, rely on Hudson’s facilities to wash and manufacture the jeans, hire a staff of six and carve a corner out of Hudson’s showroom in Los Angeles’ fashion district for meetings with retail buyers. Though Hudson and City of Others don’t use the same fabrics, Spielberg said Hudson leveraged its relationships with European and Japanese mills to create fabric exclusively for the start-up.
“Hudson is known for reliability and performance that Steve and I lacked,” Dubbeldam said. “What we brought was creative.”