As it becomes ever easier to build a commerce brand from scratch online, we’re beginning to see upstart companies eat the luxury high-end mark-up right up. Notable examples include Warby Parker, Everlane and Jason Goldberg’s furniture store Hem. With retail prices reaching upwards of $200, it’s hard not to imagine someone eventually wanting to do this to premium denim, so here comes DSTLD.
Basically DSTLD is selling its jeans at wholesale, offering what premium brands like Rag & Bone, 7 For All Mankind and Citizens of Humanity do, it says, for less than half the price. Unlike Gustin, another denim startup, it doesn’t crowdfund its designs, so the user experience of its site is similar to that of a high-end jeans brand.
“Rag & Bone make a wonderful denim product, but the price point is inaccessible to most people,” says DSTLD co-founder Mark Lynn. “Their popular high-waisted skinny is $253 vs DSTLD’s high-waisted skinny at $65.”
DSTLD considers itself in the same league with premium denim brands, because it uses the same suppliers, such as Cone Mills in North Carolina, Kurabo Mills in Japan and Candiani Mill in Italy. It also uses the same wash houses as brands like 7 For All Mankind, Hudson, J Brand and Diesel. Using the Internet to go direct to consumer is what, aside from its proprietary cuts and free shipping, sets it apart. And widens its margins.
In doing research for this post, I’ve tried the DSTLD high-waisted skinny, and liked it, and I will buy it with my own money for what that is worth. I figure paying $189 less for jeans is enough to take the risk on something new. I used to work at a very fancy jeans place (Earnest Sewn), so I’d consider myself not a sucker with regards to denim quality. The DSTLD jeans have more stretch than my Rag and Bone skinnies, with 77 percent versus 98 percent cotton, so let’s see how they do in the wash. And only time will tell on the zippers, which don’t work particularly well on my Rag and Bone pair, either.
Lynn met his co-CEO Corey Epstein in high school in Colorado, and they worked with one another in their first attempts at entrepreneurship when they were both 18: A mobile entertainment company and a lifestyle magazine, respectively. They randomly ended up reuniting on a flight to L.A., and, after finding out they had similar views on the future of e-commerce, Lynn ended up joining Corey to work on 20Jeans, DSTLD’s original incarnation.
In existence for over two years, the company is seeing traction. Says Lynn, “They said no one would buy jeans online but we have sold 60,000 pairs since we launched.”
The company has also seen investor traction, picking up a $4.4 million total Series A funding from Plus Capital, Zillion, TenOneTen, Amplify LA, CrunchFund*, Baroda Ventures, CAA Ventures, WaveMaker, and angels Dennis Phelps, Paige Craig, and Tom McInerney.
DSTLD will use the cash to introduce “a full contemporary collection distilled (heh) down to the luxury essentials in black, white and gray.” Which likely means: Bags. “We are all about less is more,” says Lynn. I can totally see a future where the Guccis and Chanels of the world are undercut by quality-focused companies that have built online trust first — marketing to my generation. That’s the battle, converting brand-conscious shoppers to “quality conscious” shoppers who want the same thing but without the overhead. Battlefield: Jeans.
*Disclosure: CrunchFund was started by TechCrunch founder Michael Arrington