Re­tail: Some brands are shun­ning fast fash­ion, set­ting them­selves apart with clothes that last—and last and last

Clothes that come with a long-term com­mit­ment

Bloomberg Businessweek (Asia) - - CONTENTS - By Mark Ellwood

Tom Crid­land had no de­sign train­ing or busi­ness ex­pe­ri­ence when he got a roughly £6,000 ($8,000) startup loan from the Bri­tish govern­ment in 2014. “I wanted to cre­ate a di­rect-to-con­sumer menswear brand that wasn’t like those fast-fash­ion places,” he says. His epony­mous line of preppy chi­nos drew celebrity fans such as Daniel Craig and Leonardo DiCaprio, but Crid­land wasn’t able to man­u­fac­ture them as eco-re­spon­si­bly as he liked. “Fash­ion is not sus­tain­able,” he says. “It’s the sec­ond-most pol­lut­ing in­dus­try af­ter oil.”

Crid­land’s so­lu­tion is what he calls the 30-Year Sweat­shirt. It’s a clas­sic crew­neck that’s avail­able in nine colors and comes with an un­usual war­ranty: free re­pairs on any rips or frays for the next three decades. (So if you buy one to­day, you’re good un­til 2046.) Postage is cov­ered, too. The sweat­shirts are about $85, and they’re engi­neered to last. The fab­ric is knit­ted with the tra­di­tional loop­back method—it uses more yarn per square inch than stan­dard tech­niques to de­ter pilling—and is given a pro­pri­etary sil­i­cone treat­ment to keep the gar­ment from shrink­ing. As for stains, “we don’t guar­an­tee against them,” Crid­land says, “but if you spill some Bolog­nese sauce on it, you’re wel­come to send it back to us.”

Crid­land tapped into a broader trend of com­pa­nies staking their rep­u­ta­tions on the idea that cloth­ing should be built to last—and last and last. They’re mostly denim brands, though, that sell cloth­ing slightly less likely to ab­sorb your full Bolog­nese splat­ter. Welsh denim re­tailer Hiut sells jeans start­ing at about $166, with free re­pairs for life. It re­ceives about 20 re­turns a week. Swedish ri­val Nudie of­fers a sim­i­lar service, hav­ing con­verted most stores to spe­cialty re­pair shops for gratis on-site mend­ing.

Crid­land has sold 8,000 sweat­shirts in a year and has ex­panded his line. Now there are poly-cot­ton blend 30-Year T-shirts (T-shirts!) for $46 and two-but­ton sport coats from $330. This fall, he’s in­tro­duc­ing a 30-Year Christ­mas Sweater, though if you wear it just once a hol­i­day sea­son, it could prob­a­bly last 20 times as long. <BW>

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