Democracy, a denim-based casual sportswear division of Kellwood Co., has been quietly building a substantial business with its denim line that enhances a woman’s shape by fusing together style, comfort and technology.
The brand doesn’t advertise and has relied on word of mouth to build business.
Henry Thervil, division head of Democracy and Wit & Wisdom, came on board five years ago from Chaus Inc. (Vince Camuto Sportswear) to reposition the brand, and over that time, Democracy has made serious inroads at department stores, specialty stores, Amazon and subscription services such as Stitch Fix.
The jeans feature what is called “Ab” solution, an innovative construction that incorporates smooth, super-stretch denim, slimming panels to mold and hold, a hidden inner elastic waistband for a no gap waist, mesh panels for tummy control, signature curved back yoke and strategically placed pockets, which give the woman a “booty lift.”
Denim styles run the gamut from jeggings, skinny jeans, girlfriend jeans, straight leg, boot leg, boot cut, plus-size jeans, petite jeans to jeans for curvy figures and tall jeans. Some 60 percent of its business is in jeans, and 40 percent is in the collection, which includes tops, sweaters, dresses, jackets, faux fur and skirts.
The brand’s sibling is Wit & Wisdom, which is more updated and contemporary, uses the same “Ab” solution technology and is an exclusive to Nordstrom. That line is geared to a woman 25 to 45, and retails from $68 to $98 for jeans; $58 to $88 for pants; $58 to $88 for wovens; $39 to $88 for knits, and $68 to $108 for sweaters.
According to Thervil, Democracy is geared to a woman from 35 to 60 years old.
Sizes range from 0 to 18, and plus sizes span 14W to 24. Its retail accounts include Dillard’s, Lord & Taylor, Belk, Boscov’s, Amazon, Stitch Fix and 700 specialty stores. The brand is housed near such resources as Lucky Jeans, VAB (Vintage America Blues) and Calvin Klein Jeans at department stores.
Caren Lettiere, founder and president of Democracy and Wit & Wisdom, came up with the Democracy denim concept 10 years ago because she couldn’t find anything contemporary and cool for a misses’ customer in the jeans department. She said contemporary brands were very expensive and it was hard to find sizes bigger than 28 on the floor. She set out to accommodate real women’s body shapes, and post-baby bodies, as well as “bodies that are well lived in,” she said.
The company launched e-commerce last November and has started ramping up a bigger social media presence. It also built out its showroom at 530 Seventh Avenue in New York.
“E-commerce is doing great,” Lettiere said. She said it’s great to have a closer connection with the customer. “We have a fantastic fan base. We get orders throughout the country, and people buy four pairs at a time,” she said. She said each of the jeans’ styles are designed with different thread color and hardware.
The company’s tops are known for their feminine details, and include embroidered and crocheted looks for summer. Soft knits, woven blouses, feminine, flowy tops and knit tops are among the offerings.
While the jeans are sized like pants, they are considering adding waist sizes this year. Since they are looking to do international expansion, waist size is more prevalent overseas when it comes to jeans sizing, Lettiere said.
Right now, Democracy’s bestselling style is the jegging. It also does well with boot cuts, girlfriend style and pull-on jeans. The company offers all the different options in leg openings, including ankle length, crop and shorts. “A good portion of our business is Southern based, where crops and ankle are sold on a yearly basis,” Thervil said.
The company also does non-denim trousers, including animal prints, cargo pants and utility pants in a base cloth.
Thervil said that right now Democracy is the number-one casual denim brand at department stores. He said the brand’s top three accounts are Dillard’s, Stitch Fix and Belk, and the brand’s specialty store business has grown 35 percent a year. On Amazon, the brand is among the top 10 denim brands on the site, Thervil said.
Democracy will be headed to HSN on Feb. 27 where Lettiere will speak to viewers about the line. She is doing three hours of programming. “It gives us the opportunity to highlight all the fit benefits,” she said.
Two years ago, Democracy launched Luxe Touch denim, which is $10 more expensive. It features better fabrics and washes, and retails for $78. “It’s selling at the same rate as the lower price jeans,” Thervil said.