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Interview: Palle Stenberg of Nudie Jeans

Donnerstag, Nov. 25, 2010, 12:07 / Gothenburg, Sweden

If you could hear Nudie Jeans, they would sound like true rock-and-roll… but Nudie Jeans is more than just a cool denim label. When Maria Erixon Levin founded the company in 2001 in Gothenburg, her passion wasn’t limited to blue fabric – she also campaigns for ecological awareness, fair trade and human rights. We talked to Chief Executive Officer Palle Stenberg about the secret behind the Swedish denim brand’s success.

TribaSpace: This year was Nudie Jeans’ most successful financial year in the company’s history. Did the crisis have no effect on you?
Palle Stenberg: It’s hard to say if things would look different if we didn’t experience what you call a ‘financial crisis’. I think a brand like ours isn’t affected in the same way as maybe a fashion brand. An economic crisis can sometimes strengthen us – in hard times you need solid brands to lean on.

This sounds that you didn’t change much?
Yes, we still have the same philosophy and distribution strategy as when we started in 2001. This past year we have bought back some of our markets that were previously handled by a distributor or agent – we now handle them ourselves. It’s important for us to be close to our partners in retail. We learn a lot from them and we think that the fight is in the shop, not behind a desk.

Authenticity and sustainability was always the guideline for Nudie Jeans. How is this reflected in the product?
I think it’s hard to speak about your own product – it leaves a bad taste in the mouth. I hope you can see our core values when you look at our products. That’s what we have been working on since day one, maybe even more so now than ever before. As you mentioned, it’s been our guideline from the very beginning. Jeans are more than just a piece of clothing. It’s a passion, and passion you feed with love, every day.

Is that the reason why Nudie Jeans are so successful?
PS: That’s hard to answer, but we love jeans and we love our brand. That’s a good start. What is success? I think you get different explanations from everyone you ask.
“Nudie will stay true to jeans and all about jeans.“ This we said when we started in 2001 and it’s still one of our most important guidelines.

The development of materials and washings is very important for Nudie Jeans. What exactly are you doing?
We have had the same partners since the beginning. Maria has always been deeply involved in the development of our own fabrics. That’s her passion and, together with the producer, it’s been a long-term joint venture that they both enjoy a lot.

Three years ago you started working with organic cotton. How important is it in your collection now?
One third of every pair of Nudie Jeans sold is made with organic cotton. One of our most important goals is to work with it. When we will reach that goal I can’t say, but next season it’s in at least 40 percent of the collection. Not too bad, we think...

Do you also have your own organic cotton line?
Yes, Dry Organic Selvage.

How do you ensure the organic cotton you are using is really organic?
We have our own team here at the head office in Gothenburg controlling the production. We still work with the same suppliers we’ve worked with for many years now. We know them and they know us, inside out. We also collaborate with external organisations that control the supplier, but also check up on us.

Three years ago you presented your t-shirt collaboration with Amnesty International. Does this project still exist?
It does still exist. Amnesty International is an important partner to us, and integrated in our daily business. In addition to Amnesty International we also collaborate with a child cancer foundation from time to time. For us, less is more, which means we would rather work deeply together with a few selected companies than superficially with many. We also do a recycle denim project that you will see more of in 2011.

How important is “Fairtrade” in the business culture of Nudie Jeans?
When you have your own company you decide the direction. At night when you put your head on your pillow, do you fall asleep without a bad conscience? We don’t say that we are perfect, but we try. It’s important.

Where are your production plants?
We produce all our jeans in Italy with Italian, Turkish, American and Japanese fabrics. Other product groups are produced in Italy and Portugal, while smaller production can be made in other countries like our home country, Sweden.

Why not in China?
We have chosen other directions.

Who do you think is wearing Nudie Jeans?
PS: It’s hard to answer. Denim has, in my opinion, a broad range of customers. I would say everyone who loves denim sees it as a product that you love and wear on a daily basis. Boys or girls, old or young, slim or not so slim. For us, it doesn’t matter.

Do you think the people who are wearing Nudie Jeans also have ethical concerns and are ethically aware?
Yes and no – I think the value of the product is still the most important part. Ethical awareness is included and important in the process, but not always crucial. I think the problem is that there is not so much to select from. You need more to start the dialogue with the consumers. We can still do much more and it is up to us to educate and inform. That’s a big challenge for us in the future.

Wolfgang Altmann | TribaSpace

Nudie Jeans Co.
Södra Larmgatan 14
41116 Gothenburg
Tel: +46 31 609390

Interested in reading more stories like this? Keep an eye on the TribaSpace Magazine:

Produkt-Gruppen: Media, Production, Sales, Ethical Wear, Ready-to-Wear
Märkte: Men's, Women's

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