NEW YORK — Executives of the Nasdaq stock market traded in their standard uniform of suits and ties for a pair of True Religion jeans on Thursday, joining the company’s management team to ring the opening bell and celebrate the first anniversary of the company’s listing on the exchange.
For Jeff Lubell, founder and chief executive officer of the Los Angeles premium apparel manufacturer, the event was not only a celebration but a prime example of just how far jeans have come.
“To come to Nasdaq today and to have everybody wearing jeans, something has to be said for that,” said Lubell, following the event.
He was joined at the Nasdaq podium by Charles Lesser, chief financial officer, and Michael Buckley, a veteran of Diesel and Ben Sherman who joined the company as president on April 24.
During a ceremony just before the start of trading, Bruce Aust, executive vice president of Nasdaq’s corporate client group, presented Lubell with a crystal trophy. In his congratulations to Lubell and the company, Aust joked that perhaps the Nasdaq dress code should be changed to require employees to wear jeans, and only True Religion jeans. Aust may not have realized there are other options available to the exchange, such as Blue Holdings, which manufactures the Taverniti So, Yanuk and Antik denim lines, and also trades on the Nasdaq.
Following a photo op in front of Nasdaq’s seven-story electronic billboard in Times Square, Lubell discussed the company’s foreign and domestic expansion plans, and his ultimate vision for the brand.
“We’re in a branding mode, so we only want to be in the best of the best stores,” said Lubell, mentioning Barneys, Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue in particular.
The company currently sells to 200 department stores and 650 specialty stores. Lubell and the firm’s management are serious enough about maintaining the brand’s premium cachet that they are willing to pass on taking sizable orders from stores that may not meet the brand’s standard.
The company is slated to open three of its own stores this year, seven units in 2007, 10 in 2008 and 12 in 2009. Lubell believes the U.S. will be home to 100 stores offering consumers a drastically different retail experience.
“There are many things wrong with retail,” said Lubell, describing most store environments as having poor service and few places for customers to sit.
He said the firm’s new Manhattan Beach, Calif., store is a model unit, noting its denim bar concept has been well received. There, customers can sit and speak with a sales associate rather than having to dig through piles of denim themselves.
The company also recently signed a distribution agreement that will bring the True Religion brand to China.
“Based on the success of Japan and how the Asian market has accepted the brand, we thought it was a natural progression to move into Hong Kong and China,” Lubell added.