The three-year-old business is now in Selfridges, marking its expansion to the U.K., and is in talks with a Korean distributor, which the company said could help its presence in the Asian market grow over the next six to 12 months.
Monfrère is sold in 55 doors, including Barneys New York and Bergdorf Goodman, and was cofounded by Sean Rudes — whose father Jeffrey Rudes started J Brand with Susie Crippen — along with Steven Dann. The founder of his namesake women’s shop in New York, Dann is also Sean Rudes’ brother-in-law.
“Sean and I were really discussing denim fits and what we were looking to purchase and wear and both of us had the same requirements,” Dann said of the company’s start.
The two wanted comfortable denim that fit well and could be worn with a T-shirt and sneakers and just as easily transition to a look with a sports jacket. The two scoured the market looking for a brand that fit their requirements, but didn’t turn up anything in line with the description. That was when they said they both knew there was room to introduce a new brand to the market.
“Our company is a category of denim that hasn’t really existed until now,” Dann said. “We’re day-to-night denim.”
The business, still in its infancy, is focused on growth and eventually a strategy for its own retail stores. But the two are keeping a steady hand on expansion.
“I started with J Brand in 2006 when they first, first started so I really saw them as a baby company with two to three employees,” Rudes recalled of his experience in being part of a growing company.
J Brand would go on to sell a majority stake to Fast Retailing Co. Ltd. in 2012 for roughly $290 million, plus $10 million in advisory fees. Fast Retailing bought the remaining shares less than a year later, bringing the total purchase price to upwards of $400 million for the business. The lessons from the past keep Rudes and Dann planted in careful growth with a watchful eye on the quality of the product.
Monfrère uses fabric from Japanese mills and makes everything in downtown L.A. They boast a 98 percent recovery with their denim.
“Our denim has the feel and comfort of activewear,” Dann said.
As more and more mills expand their sustainability efforts they’re also coming out with more innovative denim, working well with Monfrère’s desire to keep things comfortable.
“With all the denim mills out there right now, they’re really creating innovative fabric and a lot of the traditional denim companies, the ones that have been around 10, 15 years or longer, have only used the rigid fit, rough denim,” Rudes said. “A lot of mills are now coming out with softer denim with more stretch. I’d say the future of denim is going into fits like a sweat pant.”