When Matt Lambert was working with Nike in Shanghai, he had a chance to break bread with Michael Jordan and visit the Great Wall with LeBron James.
It is that international experience that Lambert will bring to his new job as global creative director at Dickies, which is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year.
Lambert, who previously was working as the creative director of Backcountry, joined Dickies on a part-time basis at the end of May and started working full-time this week.
Since starting, he has been on a crash course to learn about the ins and outs of the Ft. Worth, Texas-based company, which was founded in 1922 as Williamson-Dickie Mfg. Co. The company’s first products were tough workwear worn by cowboys, ranchers, oil riggers, construction workers, mechanics and anyone else who needed durable clothing meant to last.
During World War II, the apparel manufacturer made uniforms for the U.S. armed forces. By 1986, big name rappers started wearing Dickies, and in the ’90s, skaters took notice of the brand’s pants and shorts.
The company became so popular with workers and mainstream consumers that VF Corp. acquired the family-owned company in 2017 for $820 million, with Dickies maintaining its headquarters in Ft. Worth.
“Our consumer has evolved, and we have evolved with them,” Lambert said. “There are two sides to the business that are really important to us. One is workwear, which has been the mainstay of our company for 100 years, and then we have our work-inspired wear, which is what the major communities of the world have adopted. We want to grow and amplify that, and we will do that by building a really diverse global team.”
Skate has been one of those major growing communities, and Dickies has worked to enhance that area. California skateboarder Vincent Alvarez has been riding with the Dickies Skateboarding team since it was started in 2012. Now there is a Vincent Alvarez Signature Collection that includes pants, shorts, caps, T-shirts, utility jeans, hoodies, and work shirts.
“Skate is high energy for us,” Lambert said. “We have a fantastic internal team that manages our skateboarding portfolio.”
Dickies has three key regions where it sells: North America, Asia-Pacific and Europe. “The U.S. takes up a big part of that market share, but there are a lot of growth opportunities,” Lambert noted.
That’s where his global branding experience and creating immersive consumer experiences will come in handy. For nearly nine years, Lambert worked in various positions at Nike, headquartered in Beaverton, Oregon.
He started out as the Nike sportswear retail brand marketing manager. He spent two years in Shanghai as the retail and Jordan brand marketing manager. His last position was as a brand marketing director for Nike, which included creating immersive consumer experiences at events such as New York Fashion Week, the NBA All-Star Weekend, the Super Bowl and ComplexCon.
He also helped develop collaborations with brands such as Comme des Garçons, Tom Sachs, Virgil Abloh and Kobe Bryant.
In his new job with Dickies, Lambert will be working globally while living on Bainbridge Island, Washington, which is connected to Seattle by a ferry. The remote location won’t stop him. “I plan to be everywhere,” Lambert said.
This year Dickies will be celebrating its centennial with a new marketing campaign called Made in Dickies. It will tell the story of ordinary people, such as artists, builders, farmers, skaters and welders, making extraordinary things while wearing Dickies and why they should be celebrated.
An apparel collection, called the 100th Collection, will revisit and reimagine Dickies heritage pieces including denim overalls, pants and chore coats, and graphic T-shirts.
And a special limited-edition book created in collaboration with artist and illustrator Lucas Beaufort will have hand-painted custom illustrations over the top of archival imagery featuring iconic apparel, workers and vintage advertising.