This interview with Nudie Jeans founder Joakim Levin was originally posted in the Swedish daily Göteborgs-Posten. By Lisa Stevik. Translated with the help of Google Translate.
Joakim Levin founded Nudie Jeans in 2001, along with then-wife Maria Levin. Together they represent exactly what Nudie is - one half come from the punk world and the other from a large international clothing brand. The story of Nudie Jeans started in Gothenburg, and here they remain. The question of why they did not pick up and moved to Stockholm as so many others, is Joakim Levin horribly tired of hearing.
- We live here - let's do something here. We have never known that there was a limitation. It is more that the world is bigger than Gothenburg or Stockholm, they are both tiny spots in a backwater that nobody cares about. There's so much navel-gazing, if you are just a few meters outside of Sweden, people give a shit in what city you are from.
The fashion industry is spinning very fast today, while you recommend your clients to wear the jeans for six months before the first wash. What is your place in this?
- This is of course one issue close to our hearts. One of the problems today is the lack of subjective references, everyone is so damn anxious and looking at each other. They rather buy 18 pieces of clothing than one that you think is good, because you do not dare to show what you think is good. If there is something that has been a strong binding element in the group ever since we started, it is the common desire to do something else. A great desire to do good stuff, then it's a very subjective view of what is good stuff. But it is what it gives itself the right to define when starting something of their own.
But does it strengthen you to be a counterweight, or is there a risk that one is forced to be drawn in?
- Of course there is a risk. We can not act as if we are an island, somewhere we are in the same market and have to keep up with what's happening. Rather, it is well that we might be perceived as boring, it's a fine line between being consistent and being boring. But you can only be the flavor of the month for a month. The next month someone else is. The plan for the future is far greater to sharpen what we already are. The reaction against the fast, is to be even more consistent, and slimmer. As soon as you start to chase the other, you've almost lost. For we are not as fast as they are, we have neither the distribution or marketing resources. It is a fight we can not win.
Will there be a backlash to this tempo in the industry?
- That's an interesting question. I know that the quest towards zero can't continue, which has been going for quite some time, that everything will be cheaper. It is around zero now, it is not possible to do things cheaper. What we want is that people ask themselves why this costs 200 kronors, and this 2000 kronors? A little more interest and a little more awareness from customers about what they buy.
These are tough times for trade financially. How much do you notice that?
- We have always been a bit counter-cyclical, it has gone very well for us in tougher times. We highlight in an uphill battle, actually. We deal somewhat with bread and butter product, although it is a rather expensive one.
But you can not be completely be outside of the economic cycle?
- It is clear that we are more cautious, customers go bankrupt all the time. There is a major structural change in the retail industry. The small store that buys a few different brands have very tough times. They are going bankrupt and can't compete anymore. When we started, small stores were the backbone of our customers, today half of them left.
What will be the new backbone?
- E-commerce has clearly taken a lot of business. Previously, the small stores competed with its exclusive right to sell a certain number of brands in the region. That in itself is quite a powerful competitive weapon. When all of these brands are available at online stores, it becomes naturally difficult for the small brick-n-mortar stores to compete. They need to do something more, and what is it? They can not compete on either price or with a unique product.
Nudie is one of the few Swedish clothing brands that has no external funding in the back.
- Yes, we have had a clear idea from the beginning: we should not have any external capital. It is our party, Maria and I own the trademark. It is an independent idea, I'm an old punk musician. One of the big things is to not have someone telling us what to do. The idea is very much to not have an external ownership, or external financing that makes you have to compromise.
You have hardly been without offers, it has never been tempting?
- Many have been interested. But it's been quite easy to say no. It's been good though. to enable a good life. The goals were not pledged higher than that from the start. When it started going really well, there were a bunch of people who wanted to be involved and wanted in through various ways. Something like "wow, how good you are, how talented you are, we can not get to do it instead?"
First, you confirm that what I do is good, then you want it from me? You've just given me all the arguments for why I should keep it.
: Played music from high school until he founded Nudie Jeans at the age of 27. Also owned a clothing store in Gothenburg called Moms.
: Two children together with Maria Levin.
The usual day
: A lot of office time, phone calling, and meetings. "I actually hate meetings so it's quite interesting that it's such a big part of my job. Every other week I take care of our kids so then there's less work."
Favorite thing to do in Göteborg
: 7:ans ölhall, Beefeater, The Rover. "Places where not much is happening."