Led by new owners, Genetic Los Angeles is taking advantage of technology and social media to undergo a rebirth.
With veteran jeans-maker Hubert Guez in charge, the Los Angeles-based premium denim brand is shifting its sales operations to the Web, using social media to dictate its marketing and shortening the cycle for designing and manufacturing clothes.
“It’s the first time in our industry that technology meets fashion,” said Guez, who came aboard to turn around the denim brand after a group of investors purchased it in July for an undisclosed sum. “The technology is the driver.”
In a sign of the changes that have roiled the premium denim business, the second iteration of Genetic is a drastic departure from the original company that started in 2007. Scaled-down and low-key, Guez’s Genetic counts nine employees, compared to approximately 30 who were previously employed. Taking advantage of what Guez dubbed “the sharing economy,” it set up an office inside the 50,000-square-foot building used by Siwy Denim in Gardena, Calif. A makeshift photo studio is tucked in a corner in the open factory between the chain-link fence that secures the warehouse’s inventory and the rows of sewers who stitch clothing for Genetic and Siwy. The investors behind Genetic, who have previous experience in the denim and apparel industries, opted to remain private.
In contrast, the previous Genetic strove to embody L.A.’s creative lifestyle. For instance, Ali Fatourechi, Genetic’s founder and then-creative director, collaborated with British model Liberty Ross to design a metallic jacquard blazer and skinny jeans accentuated with plaid knee patches and tuxedo stripes. Plus, he received funding from Archetypes Inc. and Beechwood Capital. Peter Morton, cofounder of the Hard Rock Café empire, and Jimmy Iovine, former chairman of Interscope Geffen A&M Records and cofounder of Beats Electronics, also invested to help build the brand. Archetypes, Beechwood, Morton, Iovine and Fatourechi no longer hold stakes in Genetic.
Fatourechi is already back in the trenches, prepping for the fall launch of a ready-to-wear line called Adaptation. He plans to unveil a women’s collection to retailers during next month’s New York Fashion Week, then follow up with a men’s component to debut for spring 2017. While Adaptation will have a sprinkling of denim, Fatourechi is content with his decision to leave the premium denim business.
“It was a difficult environment,” he said. “It was a much more labor-intensive and capital-intensive thing to do.”
Guez is ready to take on the latest challenge in his fourth decade in the denim business. Through his previous companies, he had produced jeans for Sasson, American Eagle Outfitters, Calvin Klein, DKNY and CK Kids. He once joined the board of Iconix Brand Group and held the top executive position at Ed Hardy, which eventually was acquired by Iconix Brand Group.
At Genetic, Guez oversees a budget that allows him to buy 500,000 yards of fabric from Candiani, Orta and Isko and produce the jeans in anticipation of sales, which will be conducted online for his direct-to-consumer and wholesale business models. Alex Caugant, a veteran of Chevignon and Antik Denim, heads design, whereas Lori Foltz, an alumna of J Brand, supervises merchandising and sales. Having curtailed the design and production cycle from six months to less than eight weeks, Guez is beginning to show gauchos, nubuck jean jackets, white boyfriend jeans lined with blue tie-dye panels and rocker-style vests strung up on the side — all of which will be delivered between Feb. 15 and April. The company aims to fulfill orders to retailers in 24 to 72 hours.
Unburdened by costs associated with managing inventory, hiring sales representatives in a showroom and exhibiting at trade shows, Guez managed to trim the retail prices of the women’s jeans to between $119 and $159, down from Genetic’s previous starting price of $187. T-shirts sell for less than $50 and a leather jacket with a tab collar and ruched shoulders is the priciest item at $595. A men’s division is in the works to launch as early as April with a $100 style cut from stretch selvage fabric made by Cone Denim.
Guez said he expects sales to hit $50 million in two years. To reach that goal, he plans to spend $50,000 a month on Google and Facebook, where he can promote the brand to 10 million people. He’s still getting used to having all the data at his fingertips. One ad that he targeted to Facebook’s London users reached 87,391 people and spurred 965 clicks to Genetic’s Web site in the first day.
“This new world is mind-boggling,” Guez said. “It’s more engaging. It’s more fun. It’s more exciting. In that way, it’s different.”