Interview Inside Denim
Inside Denim did an interview with me where I’m talking about my work as a freelance denim specialist for brands, retailers, mills, and events. Inside Denim magazine offers a unique insight into the global supply chain with a strong focus on innovation, sustainability and social responsibility.
The man behind the Long John denim blog is advising brands, mills and stores on new ways to reach their audiences, with many shops temporarily closed because of the pandemic. As the blog approaches its 10th anniversary, he says companies that create exciting retail experiences will be best placed to weather the storm.
ID: What changes have you seen in the denim industry over the past year?
WM: The current Covid-19 situation has accelerated everyone’s focus on sustainability. Of course, this was already a hot topic, but the pandemic forced it to the top of the agenda. This goes further than just optimising the production behind a pair of jeans – it’s also about the facilities at factories, its employees, the farmers and so on, as well as for the employees at brands and stores.
In terms of product and collections, I think we need to produce more timeless pieces that are less season related. Covid-19 brought us back to the basics in life, and classic styles are part of this. I’m pleased to see that more brands are focusing on this direction.
And, of course, everyone is jumping on the digital train. Being present, and with creative and innovative content, is more important than ever as almost everyone is sitting in front of a screen all day. Also, events went from offline to online like Denim Days (which I’m also part of), and Kingpins, for example.
ID: What changes have you seen to your own way of working, and how have you adapted?
WM: The main switch is that almost everything has moved online, and my work has too. I already did a lot of content creation for brands, retail and mills, but there’s more demand than ever. As well as creating articles for my online denim magazine, I’m also writing and shooting photographs for my clients. I’m also doing Instagram takeovers, and online denim lectures to inspire people or to boost them, creativity wise, to share their latest developments, collections and so on.
Online visibility is more important than ever, so there are a lot of opportunities for me as a freelance denim specialist with the knowledge and a platform for the industry.
ID: What’s your view on the retail side of denim – how can it spring back from store closures?
WM: I think they can open their doors safely if they have the correct policy. There might be fewer people in the store at any one time, but this doesn’t mean that you can’t shop safely. Stores can make the shopping experience special by doing ‘extras’ for regular customers, such as making a pre-selection before they arrive, personal shopping, or partnering with another local stores with different products to make your store more interesting. Cross-selling is exciting, and you can help each other, which is important these days.
ID: What advice do you give to stores about how to differentiate themselves?
WM: More or less the same as always: stay true to yourself. Don’t copy too much from someone else, but look at your own company or brand and try to focus on the strengths of it, and use these as your unique selling points to stand out.
For stores, act local and reach your fanbase like you always do, but realise there are also a lot of opportunities to serve people outside your city, for example, online. In fact, it’s not always that important where you’re located – it’s about your collection, your presence online, your visibility in general, and your activity. Its hard to put a finger on just one element, the key is to combine them to be successful.
ID: You work as a denim blogger, a consultant to stores and brands, and also organise denim events. What aspect of your work do you enjoy most?
WM: I know this will sound very cliché, but I like the diversity, so all of them. But, if you force me to pick just one, then it will be creating content, as you can do this in so many ways. Every company or brand needs a different approach, so it will never be boring and with all the online possibilities nowadays you can connect with a wide audience worldwide. A niche brand can survive as it’s so much easier nowadays to reach someone in the States, Japan and in Europe in just one day. Online made it that the world is becoming smaller, and so there are endless possibilities to reach your target audience.
ID: Your Long John blog celebrates its 10 year anniversary this year. What have been your highlights over the decade, and are you doing anything to celebrate?
WM: I’m so grateful that something went from a hobby to my main job, with such a great client portfolio from all over the world. The best denim brands, retailers, mills and events are my clientele. I’m proud of this achievement, but to me it’s my lifestyle, so it doesn’t feel as a job. I’m just doing what I love the most, and that is denim and everything that goes hand in hand with it. It’s a way of life.
I also enjoy the travel part of my activities, meeting my denim friends, making new ones, and visiting many cool denim spots all over the world. It’s a blessing that this is part of my job, too.
During the years I have met so many cool and inspiring people all over the world, so it’s hard to choose just one highlight, but organising an inspirational denim trip to Los Angeles was one that stands out.
Also, to work with the finest people within the industry on special projects and creating collaborations together, and on my online denim magazine, is such a joy. I really like to highlight all the cool initiatives on Long John on a daily basis, and this is also how it all started in 2011. It’s still the core of my business!
I’m working on a few specials to celebrate my 10th anniversary, and later this year I can share more info about this. But expect something really, really cool!
ID: What are you looking forward to this year?
WM: I hope that we can create a new standard, so that we will be able to see each other more in real life again instead of only via a screen. To meet likeminded people wherever and to speak about our shared denim passion is a bit hard, or less fun, in front of a screen. I hope the current Covid situation will be under control, and we’re able to create new denim adventures and memories again!
Photo credit: Jenneke Luijmes