Jeans that Fit with Kristian Hansen
LifeBlood: We talked about finding jeans that fit, creating a sustainable clothing brand, the trade-offs between fast fashion and higher quality items, and building a company through community, with Kristian Hansen, Founder of Slø Jeans.
Listen to learn why high-quality denim is harder to come by than you’d think!
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george grombacher 0:01
Kristian Hansen is the jeans guy had slow he and his team are redefining what it means to build companies through community with zero ad spend and 100,000 person waitlist, they are starting a slow Fashion Revolution. Welcome, Christian.
Kristian Hansen 0:17
Hey, thanks very much for having me. Appreciate it.
george grombacher 0:19
Yeah, excited to have you on, tell us a little about your personal last more about your work, why you do what you do?
Kristian Hansen 0:26
Sure. I mean, I’m kind of the definition of a serial entrepreneur kind of always been that way. He just kind of jumping from project to project kind of my whole life. And so, you know, startups and building things has kind of always been something that makes me feel like me. And so, you know, really, this project kind of happened completely by accident. And it’s, you know, kind of just a byproduct of, you know, many different projects and many years of work that’s kind of just, you know, blossomed into to what we’re doing today. So that’s, that’s kind of my little in a nutshell.
george grombacher 1:01
Appreciate that. So, from project to project, slow, just kind of happens. Tell me more about that.
Kristian Hansen 1:10
Sure. Yeah. So I mean, I was in the fashion industry, I first I was a hockey player originally, and I had a nasty injury ended up not being able to play hockey anymore, as usually, that’s kind of how those stories and, and ended up moving into, into fashion just to something like didn’t want to sit there and do nothing. My agent at the time recommended, you know, hey, talk to this person, just get a job, just get moving again, get back into life. And so I did, and I took a job in the fashion industry working for a big fast fashion company, because I didn’t really know very much at the time. And, you know, I kind of discovered some pretty horrible things. It’s a very broken industry, very heavily polluting industry. It’s, you know, a giant machine built on a lot of exploitation of people. And so I couldn’t really be a part of that. And I thought, you know, I really do like fashion, but I want to do it right. And so I started working on sustainable fashion brands, from that point, kind of just jumped one ship to the next. And one day in the pandemic, I accidentally went out and bought a pair of jeans at a thrift shop just for myself. And they turned out to be women’s jeans. And I made a tick tock about it saying, Hey, ladies of the world as this literally, this is what you’re expected to wear every day. The pockets are horrible, the material is itchy, they don’t fit. Well, this is the standard. And it went mega viral. And that was really the beginning of slow or I went, Hey, I’m already in this industry. I know how to make things. I know manufacturers. I could fix this. And it just exploded since that it’s now been a year we’ve made 11,000 pairs of jeans. And yeah, it’s it’s it’s been pretty rock and roll.
george grombacher 2:51
So you’re in this thrift store for former hockey player. So I imagine you’re a bigger person. Yeah. And you’re like, these are cool jeans, you just kind of didn’t think too much about it. I’ll grab these because they’re probably inexpensive.
Kristian Hansen 3:06
Totally, I’m six foot three. So there’s not a chance I ever considered. Oh, okay, that’s my inseam. I know that’s my NC and these will fit that definitely men’s jeans. And you know, it’s still to this day, I tell this story to fashion people. And they’re like, what you found you found jeans that fit you
george grombacher 3:22
crazy? Funny. You’re like, wait a minute, what’s with these pockets and everything else. So
Kristian Hansen 3:30
I dropped my phone that was those that would basically was so frustrating. I had no social media following anything. I was just walk into the train station, trying to put my phone in my pocket, just like jamming it in the pocket. And I’m like, What is going on with these things. And I just dropped my phone and it breaks the case. And I’m like, Oh my God, these are women’s jeans. And this is what I’ve heard about this is that elusive tail that I’ve heard about. I’m now living it. I need to I need to rant about this. And that that was really what exploded. From there.
george grombacher 3:57
How funny. So I am interested in a better design on women’s jeans. And I’m also interested I think people would be in, in the non sustainable aspects of the fashion industry as it was before you decided to put a dent into it.
Kristian Hansen 4:15
Sure, yeah. I mean, the biggest issue with fashion, whether it’s women’s fashion, or men’s fashion, or anything along those lines is we’ve really we’ve had this kind of shift in like a manufacturing kind of a paradigm shift per se, kind of in the early 2000s When fast fashion was really born. And you know, clothing collections used to be released with the seasons. You know, you probably very familiar with summer collections and fall collections and winter collections. That was the standard for, you know, 100 years, if not more. And all of a sudden in the early 2000s with kind of like the beginning of the rise of social media and kind of just media and the internet in general. These brands realized we don’t actually have to hold it to four collections per year. We can do a collection every month. And then it started in a collection every month, and then it was every week and ever, you know, multiple times a week. And with that kind of shift came this shift in consumer behavior where it’s like, oh, I can buy this. And I only need to wear it a couple of times, because it’s cheap. And next week, there’s going to be new things for me to buy anyway. And so, as a whole, you know, that’s really what’s affected everything from denim, whether it’s women’s denim, or men’s denim, you’re probably seeing the quality of clothing getting worse over time, the price is staying the same or increasing over time. And it comes down to this mass standardization model, they’re trying to get as few sizes as possible, as few options as possible, pump out hundreds of 1000s of the same thing, put them in stores around the world and basically hope they work. And as a result is created a massive waste problem, because we have a hundreds of 1000s of garments around the world that are not being sold that are being sold in the wrong markets that aren’t fitting people well, return rates are through the roof on ecommerce sites, because things just don’t fit properly. And it doesn’t really matter because this fast fashion machine that’s that’s actually music to its ears, because people are gonna just keep on buying. And so that really, you know, is what motivates us to you know, call ourselves slow, you know, we are slow fashion are the opposite. We’re trying to take it back to the way that things used to be made where you would almost, you know, commission a piece, you’d go to a tailor, you would go to a seamstress and be like, hey, I need a suit, I got a wedding this summer, these are my measurements, make me a suit. And the tailor would say, Hey, I got this fabric, I got that fabric. And that was really inspirational piece for us was let’s bring it back to the way it used to be and make sure that every pair of jeans that’s leaving our factory, it already has a home. And so we’re making those jeans specifically to that person to their preferences to their sizes, we know they’re not going to be returned for a sizing issue. And we’re keeping those you know that waist low.
george grombacher 6:52
I love it. That makes a ton of sense. So I’m just going to talk about my personal experience as just me, I would buy a pair of jeans and keep it for a decade. Are women is? Is my experience common with men and with women?
Kristian Hansen 7:11
I would say you know, for good pieces. Yeah, absolutely. I mean, the biggest issue really, for women’s jeans in the last about 1015 years has been the trend has been going towards like basically thinner and thinner and higher stretch fabrics, which you know, they’re very polyester based, they’re not designed to last, and denim went from being this thing, 100 years ago that, you know, miners would wear, you know, because of how rigid it was and how, you know, you could wear it in the fields. And you could wear it at the bar. And you know, it’s like tried and true, you can have that, you know, denim jacket for 25 years, we’ve now taken it and just basically created this version of fabric that looks like denim, but isn’t denim. And that’s really what’s kind of infiltrated the market and has created this kind of longevity problem. So one of the key things that we’re trying to do is go back to that using real denims from real mills that lasts a long time and don’t have that kind of throwaway effect.
george grombacher 8:07
And how hard is that? Is it just easy to start making real damn again?
Kristian Hansen 8:13
No. It’s been really, really hard. It’s, it’s, by far the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life. It’s, you know, you think about pants, you’re like, Okay, it’s easy, I go to a store or buy them, I take them off the shelf, there are hundreds of decisions that go into a single pair of pants. And unless you’re like on that side of it, you never think about any of it. And you know, there are dozens of pages of just technical information to make a single size, a single size of pants, you know, not even getting into engineering the textiles, like we’re talking about real denim or not. And so it’s really complicated. But you know, it’s been about we’re about a year in now. And we finally got the hang of it. Now we’re building our own manufacturing facility so we can take more control over things and really kind of dive even deeper into it. But ya know, it’s hard.
george grombacher 9:06
Like, oh, that’s why they just make the cookie cutter stuff.
Kristian Hansen 9:11
george grombacher 9:13
Do you have that moment are like, Oh my gosh, this is going to be too hard. I’m going to quit. did. Maybe you’re thinking that right now?
Kristian Hansen 9:23
No, you know what, I think it’s much the, you know, the despair of some of my partners. I think I’m just far too headstrong for that. I think it goes back to like sports and you know, and whatnot. I you know, I I have such strong belief in the team that we’ve created and the product and the vision and the need for it because of you know, this community that we’ve grown and I get DMS and emails and messages from people every day who are on both sides of the coin to say thank you I finally have jeans that fit me and also please make this please make that please do this. So there’s such strong consumer demand. It’s like okay, At times the socks, I’m going to figure it out because we got to make it work.
george grombacher 10:06
So the, that first viral video of you in the lamenting about the the the the plight of women having to wear a crappy jeans that that gave you the idea? And he said, Okay, I think that there’s really something here that we can tap into from a community standpoint. Tell me a little bit more about that.
Kristian Hansen 10:29
Yeah, totally. You know, at that point, it was like, Okay, what is that? What a fashion brands do? And why is it not working? And the first thing kind of came to me was fashion brands. It’s not a two way conversation. It’s a one way conversation. It’s always been it’s, this is our new collection, look at the celebrity that we’ve paid to endorse it, look at it on the mannequin in the store, you want this. And I think that was really the root of the problem, because you have 1000s of people saying we don’t want this, we want that. And so from the beginning, it was like, you know, what, if we’re going to do this, this has to be like completely, like open source based on what people actually want us to make. And let’s just ask for ideas. And so I put together a Google form on a really bad website, linked it to my tic tock and just started making tic TOCs. And in the first three months, we had over 700,000 form submissions. Wow, it was ridiculous. It was like we, at one point, I had to figure out, I couldn’t figure out how to turn off the notifications on my phone. And my phone kept crashing, because basically, every minute there was so many form submissions, I couldn’t get into the phone. It was ridiculous. And it was like, Wow, this means something to people. And it’s so simple. It’s pants, you know, but that was the core of it. It was, look, there’s this huge demand, let’s listen, and let’s just build this feedback loop that doesn’t exist in this industry. I’ll take your suggestions, I’ll show you your suggestions. If you like it, I’ll make it. And that’s really the loop that we’ve been building now for the last year, and then the loop that we’ve been operating. And that’s the core of kind of the direction that we’re trying to hold moving forward as well.
george grombacher 12:06
It makes sense. It’s one of those good problems when he can’t access your phone. Right? Is it? Is it? Is it genes? That that is there something special about genes that this is resonating because of or is it just just the industry that we’ve been talking about?
Kristian Hansen 12:25
This little bit of both, you know, jeans, I think there is something special about jeans. And you know, if you just look at it from an economics perspective, there’s something special about jeans, jeans have transcended culture, you know, around the world, you know, there are almost a dozen markets in the world wear jeans are a billion dollar industry, you know, everywhere from you know, you go all the way to the Far East, in Japan, they love their jeans in India, they love their jeans in the States, the classic Levi’s have been there for 100 years. And you know, every single country on Earth that you go to, if you walk around, you will find people wearing jeans. And it’s become such a staple of fashion, it’s the most popular garment on Earth. And I think that there’s a lot of people that, you know, they romanticize the idea, especially with the origin story, you know, back and cowboys and the Wild West, and you know, that whole Gold Rush kind of era, and then into the 70s and 80s, where, you know, it was a staple in disco and movies and pop culture and denim has hand in hand been a part of pop culture around the world for 100 years. And so I think there’s a lot of people that felt left out, and they felt left out for function, they felt less, you know, left out for fit. And all of a sudden, I’m here saying, hey, you’ve never been able to find a pair of those things that everyone else has, I can make them for you. And that, you know, was something that no one had ever said to them before. And that was, I think the core of it. And so it is larger than just jeans. And we are already branching out into more things in fashion. And there’s a lot of problems to be fixed in fashion. But there’s something special about denim.
george grombacher 14:02
Yeah, yeah, that’s really well said. Jeans are a billion dollar industry in 12. Markets. Is that what you said?
Kristian Hansen 14:09
Correct? Yeah, we produce it’s 100 and roughly $20 billion industry worldwide. We produce about 3 billion pairs a year. It’s it’s crazy.
george grombacher 14:21
Got it. So getting back to creating a really quality denim. I’d love to learn a little bit more about that.
Kristian Hansen 14:33
Yeah. I mean, there’s many stages and you got to kind of do it right, you can pick right you can get really great fabric from a really great mill and put it together really badly and you still get a bad pair of jeans. And you know, that’s what we see a lot of right now in fast fashion, fast fashion. There’s a lot of companies that are using great denim, maybe you’ll see if you walk around to one of these big brands to see the tag they’ll say like organic cotton or you know this certification and that certification and in some cases they’re out Actually, they’re they’re legit. They’re really good fabrics. But they take those fabrics and they ship them to Bangladesh. And they have them made by children in sweatshops and the quality ends up being horrible. And you can’t call that a sustainable garment. You can’t call that a good end end garment. And so really, for us, it was about figuring out okay, how do we not cut corners at every single stage? And how do we add an experience to something that typically isn’t something that you experience the experience for most people buying pants, you pull a random person off the side of the road? You say, Do you enjoy buying pants? Most people say no. Most people are like, I don’t like buying pants are hard to find they don’t fit well. I don’t like buying them online. Why there’s just it’s a bad experience. Why is it bad experience? So going back to your question, what is quality denim, I think it comes down to that whole experience, it comes down to fit, and making sure that you have a size set that works for everybody for all body types and a new way to collect those sizes. And to get those people sized. It’s making sure that you’re using quality fabrics and quality construction that you’re making them from people who are qualified and you know, are working in ethical working conditions so that they’re happy, the happier the people in your factory, the better your teams are going to be. And then not cutting corners, and all of these different areas, whether that’s buttons and metal where and all the little pieces and accessories that make a product great. And so for us, it’s really just been about you know, not trying to cut corners, and people think I’m insane. I walk into these these different factories and showrooms and mills. And they’re always trying to show us the cheapest stuff possible. Because most people who show up, they’re like, I want the cheapest garment possible, get it on the shelf for five or $6. And I’m here like, show me your best stuff. And they think I’m crazy. And you know, so it’s it’s, you know, in a nutshell, long story long. It’s really just about making sure that every single stage that you can possibly put the thought into you do. And that’s really at the core of what we’re trying to be as a brand.
george grombacher 16:52
Beautiful. Well, Kristen, thank you so much for coming on. Where can people learn more about you? Or can they get a pair of slow jeans?
Kristian Hansen 16:59
You can come on our website at slow jeans.co SL o jeans.co. All of my socials are there as well. My personal email is there as well. If you’d like to ever reach out feel free. I love having conversations with people about anything. So yeah, everything’s right there and our genes are right there as well.
george grombacher 17:17
Awesome. Well, if you enjoyed as much as I did show Christian your appreciation and share today’s show with a friend who also appreciates good ideas and loves wearing jeans. Go to slow jeans dot C O S O S LOJEA M s.co and pick up your pair. Thanks, Ken Christian. Yeah, thanks
Kristian Hansen 17:38
for having me. Appreciate it.
george grombacher 17:39
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George Grombacher November 3, 2023