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Chloe Lonsdale, who launched the women’s premium denim label MiH in 2005, has stepped into the men’s arena. Her new label, Jean Machine, takes its name from her father Tony Lonsdale’s denim store, which was a landmark on London’s King’s Road in the Seventies.
This story first appeared in the December 15, 2011 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
And the focus of the brand — which spotlights pared-down, simply tailored jeans — will be as much on Lonsdale’s online iteration of the Jean Machine store as the collection itself.
“It’s not intended to be a traditional wholesale business. We really wanted to launch again as a retail concept, like my father did in the Seventies, but the retail concept is online this time round,” said Lonsdale, whose site at thejeanmachine.co.uk will ship globally, via distribution centers in the U.S. and the U.K. “That’s not to say we won’t have a brick-and-mortar store in due course. But dad had over 100 stores — we would [now] like to reach the world via an online platform.”
Lonsdale does plan to work with select wholesale customers — Jean Machine has partnered with MrPorter.com to launch the collection this week — but she said she sees these partnerships as “the jewel in the crown.
“We’ll only be looking to work with a small amount of customers that will help us reach the consumer on ground level,” said Lonsdale. And she noted that the label’s online store will remain focused on the Jean Machine brand “for the foreseeable future.
“Fundamentally, we’re an online retail store launching, as opposed to a new standard wholesale brand,” she said. In contrast, her women’s MiH label is sold globally, at stores including Barneys in New York and Los Angeles, Matches and Liberty in London and Luisa Via Roma in Florence.
And the Web site’s clean, simple design mirrors the denim’s minimal aesthetic. The jeans come in three core fits — slim, straight and relaxed — that will create the same straight-leg effect on different body types. There are also four washes — raw, rinse, aged and black — that form the backbone of the collection.
“The important thing that we’ve tried to remember all along is that [the collection] has never been about fashion,” said Lonsdale. “It’s very much about making concise choices, and it’s extremely focused and edited.” The denim is sourced from Japanese mills, but Lonsdale doesn’t see that as its key selling point. “We didn’t want to surround the product with lots of noise about where it’s made and how craftsmanlike it is. We want it to feel more accessible and have a wider appeal,” said Lonsdale. “When [customers] wear the product and it wears beautifully, that will justify us having spent double on beautiful Japanese denim.”
The jeans will retail from $170 for a slim-fit jean in a raw wash to $250 for a straight-leg jean in the aged wash. The collection also includes cotton shirts at $190 and T-shirts at $85. Lonsdale said she sees the core demographic as men ages 25 to 40. “He’s looking for [denim that’s] smarter, more tailored, cleaner. Something that will last and will make a statement in an understated kind of way, rather than being splashed with logos.”
Lonsdale declined to discuss sales predictions but said that having the platform of her successful MiH women’s denim line meant she doesn’t have to make “overly commercial decisions” about the brand. “It gives you the freedom to make the brand choices first and foremost, before sales,” she said. “Our aim is to really try and establish brand awareness [for Jean Machine] without a focus on hitting particular goals.”