Start It Up


Josh Gustin and Stephen Powell are two San Francisco guys with a passion for denim. A few months ago, they set up a Kickstarter campaign with a modest $20,000 goal to produce selvedge denim practically in their backyard. At $81 a pair, the price point was unheard of for domestically-made denim. Perhaps that's why when the campaign ended on February 9, they had raised $449,654—making it one of the most successful clothing-related Kickstarter campaigns ever. Now, Powell and Gustin are taking their trade to the rest of the Internet. Their website offers premium denim and handcrafted leather goods, but consumers vote on what actually gets made—with their wallets. We caught up with Stephen Powell about post-Kickstarter life, and how they aim to revolutionize menswear.

When you guys blew through your initial goal, how did you adjust your infrastructure to keep up with that demand?

We were hopeful that this new concept for fashion retail would resonate with people, so that was an awesome response to get. We weren't so scared about fulfilling the demand, because we've been in this industry for 8 years. We know what we're doing, we've done production runs. We were actually excited that people felt the same way we did about retail and were hungry for an alternative.

How fast has the turnaround been from the end of the Kickstarter campaign to getting the jeans in the hands of investors?

We promised all the rewards would be shipped out in April and May. Based on that, we've shipped out about 3,500-5,000 so far. We're wrapping up the last 1,500 pairs right now.

Did exceeding your goal present any problems?

We didn't really have to adjust. Our model is such that it scales up really well, which is why we came up with this plan. One thing we did on Kickstarter that we continue to do on our own crowd-funding platform is be transparent about how much availability we have of each fabric and when we can deliver it. We never get ourselves into a situation where we're like "oh crap, we sold ten times what we expected!" We set realistic expectations for our customers from day one, and we can usually hit those goals.

Tell us about this revolutionary business model.

It's the first fully crowd-funded men's fashion brand. Everything runs on a similar model: We design items, put them out and when a certain number of people buy them, we charge them and put everything into production. We've had 45 successfully-funded campaigns so far ... it's pretty cool.

What's the average turnaround
time for products?

Right now, we're looking at about 4-6 weeks. As we continue to grease the wheels, we'll get it closer to 2-4.

Now that you've conquered denim, what's next?

Our goal was to start with denim, but really we're building an entire menswear collection. We've already added belts and wallets, now button-downs are next.

    Gustin gets its denim from Cone Mills, an esteemed factory in North Carolina that produces some of the world's greatest denim since 1895.

Published on

May 16, 2013

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