Celebrity stylist, Susie Crippen, and denim expert, Jeff Rudes, teamed up less than two years ago. Together they have created the perfect combination of sexiness and style in a woman's jean while still allowing women to feel comfortable. The ultimate result was J BRAND; the simplicity of the jean, with no pocket design or rivets, and their clean classic washes creates a smashing silhouette.
Jeff and Susie relished at the opportunity to have J BRAND available on CoutureCandy. They felt that CoutureCandy's sophisticated and fashion forward customer would be a great match for their premium denim. J BRAND is so excited to be associated with such an exclusive website.Shop JBrand >>
CC: Hello, and welcome to the CoutureCast, by Couture Candy. Today is May 16, 2006 and I am very excited to be speaking to Jeff Rudes and Susie Ripen. They are the co owners and creators of the super popular J Brand jeans. How are you guys doing?
CC: Good. So, I am sure that everybody, all of your customers and fans out there, are very excited to hear more from you, about your background and your collaboration. So, I guess we will start there. Tell me about your background and what lead you to start J Brand jeans.
JR: Oh boy. A loaded question.
CC: That is a loaded question.
JR: My background 30 yeas in the apparel industry, loved fashion as a kid, best dressed in high school...
JR: And, so went in the jean business and really revolutionized what was the designer jean boom. I was one of the people to do it back in the mid to late 70s.
CC: What line was that?
JR: Oh, it was called Paris 2000, and you know, it was before Jordache and it was really the time... There was two of us, it was Sassoon and myself. And, actually the original partner of Sassoon was my partner.
CC: Oh wow!
JR: We split off and stayed friends and built two great companies. But what happened at that time was that we really revolutionized something that was new. And that was like very clean French jeans. The recreation of J Brand 30 years later is the spirit of what was done then, which was clean and classic and all about a great fit.
JR: That is the inspiration of our product. Yes, we are first with the straight leg and everybody is really excited about what we have penetrated in the market, but really, when you look at the product and what the long term beauty of it is, because it is a timeless jean, is that it has got a very clean and classic sophistication to it.
CC: Right. I think the timing for it is absolutely perfect too, because we are just coming out of this over embellished, overdone, really fancy over the top denim. And I feel like I know our customers were just begging for something like that. Before they even knew that they needed it, you had it, you did it. And, it is awesome, because once it was exposed to all of our customers, and to the fashion industry, I feel like people just said, "Oh my God, that is exactly what I want right now!" And you were such on the forefront of making that whole thing happen. I think it is fabulous!
JR: I'd like Susie to explain a little bit more about the product, because there are ingredients. We do look and we talk here, in the design room, like our product is like a great recipe of your favorite thing you love to eat. And as anybody that is in the kitchen knows, every great recipe has ingredients and its own timing, and there are little things about the product that people might not notice, but it's a part of what they love. And the genius of what Susie came to the table with creating this knowing what a woman wanted is really what added to that. So I would like her to share a few things, without giving the secrets to our competition, about what is so special that makes it work, and why the jeans are so comfortable and things like that.
CC: She definitely hit the nail on the head. So, let's hear from Susie about this.
SC: Well, what happened was, it was in my background. I was a wardrobe stylist and I worked with many, many different shapes and sizes of people. I did photo shoots and commercials and worked with celebrities. What I discovered, when I was out there in the jean world, was there were many, many, many jeans to choose from, and nobody could seem to find a jean that they really, really loved.
CC: Right. And you have seen so many people; you have dressed so many people.
CC: So you definitely had that feeling, I'm sure, for what people want.
SC: Exactly. And not just...
CC: What is not working.
SC: And not just skinny little people. I mean I have dressed women from size 0 all the way up to size 14, and so I really had a very profound grasp on A, what was available on the market; B, what was working in the market and what wasn't working and C, most importantly, what women wanted and couldn't find. So, out of all of those three things, and based on technology of fabric today and based on my aesthetic coupled with Jeff's expertise, we were able to come up with this jean that I saw in my head, that was really based on images that I had from the late 60s, when jeans were basically hip hugger Levis.
SC: So that is what I really wanted to create. I wanted to create a jean that you buy in the beginning and it goes through your life with you. It wears down and washes out and takes on... it is almost like a photo album of where you've been in your life.
CC: It is like having that favorite pair of jeans that you wore in high school.
CC: I know myself; I always want to keep that.
CC: And that is interesting too. And especially, the J Brand jeans are not something that you are going to purchase and then five years down the road go, "Oh my God, I can't believe I wore those!"
CC: Which, I have a few things in my closet right now that I am thinking and feeling that way about.
CC: So I love that concept. I love the idea and I know everybody else if just ecstatic about the jeans. We get such a great feedback from all of our customers like," Oh, I love these, and have to get another pair!" Well, you know how many you sell, you they the love it. It is so nice of you two collaborate and provide this. So, let me ask you this, I think it is so exciting. What is it like to be a major label overnight? I mean, you could not have been expecting this.
JR: I have had some great successes in my 30 years, but I would say that this really outdoes anything that I have ever experienced, and it is a very humbling experience. We just had a staff meeting this morning and one of the messages that was stressed is that, no matter how strong we get in the marketplace, we just add to the humility of how we will present ourselves as a company. And it is just a very humbling experience. It's great to have all the press and what's going on with us. But you know, there's a human factor around that. At the end of the day, it's about being grateful, and it's about satisfying the consumer. And the consumer is the woman out there, that when she is satisfied with her choice of purchase, then we know we've done our job.
CC: Right, and she feels good going out there and getting compliments. You know how much better your day is when you really love what you're wearing and you feel good in it.
CC: Especially through the other girls we know.
SC: And also, if you add to what Jeff said, it's absolutely shocking for me, and also unbearably exciting, and exciting on a level where I'm getting emails and notes from people who either I haven't spoken to in 20 years or I've never met in my whole life, who live and die for their J Brand jeans.
CC: That's such a great feeling I'm sure.
SC: It's kind of amazing to be able to create that for somebody in the world. I mean, even one person would be fantastic, let alone the hundreds of hundreds who we're creating that for. Just like you said, as a girl if you can feel fantastic about yourself in your jeans, you're going to be just a little bit more fantastic throughout your day. Whether you're great with people or you just feel wonderful about yourself, it's going to affect who you are in the world. That's the greatest compliment.
CC: That is such truth too. And then you think about the butterfly effect and that makes it even more fabulous. I love that.
JR: Just to add to this: when we are recognized by the fashion icons and celebrities that really make a mark in fashion the way we are right now because I don't think there's one icon Suzie and I aspired to over a year ago and said, "You know, they should be wearing our jeans," that aren't wearing them today.
JR: There's so much added value and that's such an acknowledgement at the end of the day because that's not an easy crowd to please.
CC: No, and they have their resources, and the stylists, and everybody at their fingertips to choose the best things that they could have. If they're wearing your jeans, when they have a whole fleet of wardrobe people out there finding the best thing for them, what a fantastic compliment.
SC: Yeah, it's great.
CC: So that's what leads me to my next question: when did you first hear about celebrities wearing J Brand jeans?
SC: In the tabloids.
CC: In the tabloids? Tell me about it. I want to know how it impacted your business, how that felt, that must have been so cool.
SC: Again, to me it was shocking. At the same time, I knew that if I loved them that other people would love them. The first one was Angelina Jolie. We picked up a magazine. I had met her stylist at a luncheon and was wearing jeans, and she asked me what I was wearing. It was when we first started out, and she said, "I really think Angelina would love those." So I just sent her some, and it turns out she did, and it turns out she was photographed wearing our black jeans over and over and over again. What was that, August?
SC: August/September of 2005. To open up a magazine and see someone like Angelina Jolie with our jeans on...
CC: I know, love that woman, who doesn't? I can't even imagine, that's incredible.
SC: It did have a major impact on our business. Suddenly, everybody knew who we were.
CC: Right, that's great. What are some of the other vehicles that helped to popularize J Brand jeans?
JR: Well, being at the forefront of the straight leg cycle, because everything is cyclical, right?
JR: Flare legs and bell bottoms will be back one day. For those listening who are going, "Eeww!" they will be back. So it's a straight leg cycle, and our job is to see what the future is. Being that we were a new company and not bogged down with chasing a look, which is one of the things that happens to manufacturers, they get locked into something.
CC: Oh, I see it all the time Jeff.
JR: Yes, it's very hard to crawl out. Being that we were new and fresh, we were looking ahead, and not only did we see our clean silhouette as something that was missing in the market that people were really looking for, we were able to see the next trend in leg openings and what was going on with this sexy straight leg. A year ago we introduced it, about a year ago in March, at the top stores in America. We actually introduced it at Ron Harmon on Melrose in Los Angeles and at Atrium and Henry Lair in New York and we had immediate success. Now that was a very fashion forward customer.
JR: And slowly we just saw it moving out to the rest of America, the legs getting narrower. I would say part of what helped the massive growth was being at the forefront of this trend and really leading the area. Because it wasn't only about a straight leg but it was about dark and simple. If it was a straight leg with embellishments and holes and rips and tears, I don't think the market would have responded the way they did to the refreshing change. We came with a very dark and clean jean and straight, it was all part of the ingredients.
CC: Yeah, it was such a drastic change. Every bit of it was drastic, and it was unbelievably visionary and brave too, because you decide to make this and it's not what everybody else is doing, and I'm sure everybody is just so happy that you just stepped up there and you followed your vision. You executed it so well, everyone's loving it, and everyone's now starting to follow. Is there anything else that either one of you would like to say to your fans and customers out there?
JR: Other than thank you, our job is to please you. There are great new things in the pipeline of fabric. We are keeping a focus on what we've created, not getting too wide. We're going to release product on a very timely basis and keep it exciting. But our job is to keep the customer, you, excited, happy, new things to buy. So we're working very hard to please you guys, and thanks.
CC: I know and you guys are so busy. And I have to tell all of your customers out there too that you are wonderful to deal with. Everyone in your company has been really nice to us. And everybody here at Couture Candy really enjoys working with Jay Brand. And I think that is super, super important.
I've seen so many designers, when they get their big heads and forget what they were on track to do. So I'm loving it.
I'm sure you guys will have continued success for years and years to come.
I would like to ask you a couple of questions. Just some fun, little short answers. I'll ask each of you. So Suzie, who is your muse? If you have one?
SC: I have a lot of different people I look to for inspiration. One of them being Kate Moss, Gwyneth Paltrow, Fifi Filo, and Stella McCartney are my modern day muses.
CC: Really good choices.
SC: But also my dad.
CC: Oh that's so sweet!
SC: My dad has really, really wicked style. And it's very low key, and it's very classic. I've always been profoundly influenced by the way he dresses. My maternal grandmother was also very, very stylish.
CC: You have it in the blood, girl!
SC: My mother comes from a family of eight and they grew up in North Carolina. So clothing was of the utmost importance. How you presented yourself in the world was crucial. So my mother and my grandmother, I have a lot of people. And it could be someone walking down the street.
SC: Somebody who has originality and somebody who has a look of their own. Which is why we created Jay Brand and this classic, simple way so that every girl can really create her own look, and doesn't have to look like everybody else.
CC: Yeah and the jeans are extremely versatile too.
CC: What about you Jeff? Do you have a muse?
JR: Well for me, lets say on the classic side Cary Grant.
JR: For style and 'cool', would be James Dean. That whole fifties t shirt, jeans, you know?
CC: Oh yeah. I remember my dad saying that when he was in High School, he had to go out and get a red windbreaker, when James Dean's whole look came out.
JR: You know, for the classic style; Roger Moore, you know James Bond, right? They knew who they were dressing for those shows. And more modern day, for a real classic look, I would say Tom Ford.
CC: Oh yeah!
JR: I really liked the dark jacket and the white shirt. You know I do the same thing, and it's a very classic look, so.
CC: So then Jeff, what would you never be caught dead in?
JR: I would never be caught dead in a leisure suit or a 'members only' jacket. Which I understand they are coming back. Being that I never had one is no hang up that I'll have to replace that jacket with!
CC: Ha ha. Perfect! What about you Suzie? What would you never be caught dead in?
SC: Oh there are so many things I would never be caught dead in. I would never be caught dead in one of those miniskirts with the ruffles on the back.
CC: Oh good, good. I wouldn't want you to be!
SC: I don't think I'd want to be caught dead in any miniskirt anymore, ever at this point in my life!
CC: What's the favorite item in your closet, besides your Jay Brand jeans?
JR: Favorite item in my closet is, my black crepe Armani suit.
CC: Excellent. I'm sure that takes you a lot of places, does it?
CC: What about you Suzie?
SC: I have to say. I have this brown, thick, leather belt with a brass buckle that I got at the Jeans Shop in New York that I wear. If there are three hundred and sixty five days in the year, I wear it three hundred and fifty two days of the year.
SC: Cannot live without it.
CC: What a great purchase! What a great find.
CC: So, let me ask Jeff this. If you could go anywhere tomorrow, where would it be?
JR: Anywhere tomorrow where would it be? I could use a nice trip to Tahiti.
CC: Oh I love Tahiti. What about you Suzie?
SC: I would go to Africa.
CC: That would be awesome too. So the thing is you're not going to go anywhere tomorrow because you're so busy. Let me ask you this. What is the future of Jay Brand Jean?
JR: Well, the future of Jay Brand Jeans, we're building a long term, stable brand and there are certain things to do, to actually be at the forefront. And one of them is to sell to the best stores and distribution in the world. We've actually opened up every world wide import market. All over Europe...
CC: You have been busy. Wow!
JR: ...and other parts of Asia, Brazil. In the last two months I've been flying around the world and opening markets. And we have this international agent that is working with us. So we're opening the best stores worldwide. We're not over distributing the line. We are saying 'no' to more customers today, retailers, than 'yes', only to keep ourselves with the stores that are branding image. Then secondly is to be at the forefront of fashion. We've created something, and now we're going to be responsible about staying there.
So it's about the stores we sell, it's about the product that we deliver. We're keeping it clean and simple. Jay Brand will never be something that a consumer, or the customer, you, being a customer of ours down to the consumer level, will walk in and look at it and go; 'Oh God, I don't know what to buy, there's so many choices here, I am confused.' It's going to be very 'now' and 'deep', but great stuff.
CC: Well that's definitely a winning plan and I am sure you guys are going to go far, like I said before. I know it's already doing so well and everything that you seem to be doing is just right. It's perfect. So thanks so much for talking to us. I really appreciate it. I know that you're so busy right now. I hope you find a little store in Tahiti that you can go visit and sell your jeans there...
JR: Thank you.
CC: ...and Africa, if you're not already. Thanks so much we really appreciate hearing from you.
SC and JR: Thank you!
CC: All right. Bye guys.
SC and JR: Bye!