It isn’t precisely information that utility-focused workwear has been embraced by troves of people that admire it for type over perform. For the previous a number of years, manufacturers like Carhartt, Dickies and Wrangler have been hanging within the closets of artists, musicians, vogue editors, artwork administrators, influencers and City Outfitters consumers. By no means thoughts that these jumpsuits, carpenter pants, overalls and chore jackets had been initially designed for handbook labor — one thing that in all probability is not within the job description of many of the artistic coastal elites driving this pattern.
A reasonably-stylish male buddy of thoughts who works as a graphic designer at an company in Los Angeles is the kind of particular person you would possibly anticipate to put on Dickies pants or Carhartt jackets to work, however he has a tough stance towards them: Ethically, he takes subject with the glamorization of the “working-class” uniform. As somebody with a comparatively soft desk job, he feels it might be like dressing up in a dressing up.
This take obtained me pondering. How do the manufacturers themselves navigate participating with and catering to the extra fashion-minded shoppers who’ve chosen to undertake this aesthetic (as a result of it might be dangerous enterprise to not) with out straying from their workwear roots, as a result of doing that may alienate that core, blue-collar buyer, with out whom they would not exist?
Earlier this summer time, I ended by beloved L.A. boutique Fred Segal to take a look at Dickies’ first-ever pop-up store inside a fashion-centric retailer, and it grew to become clear that this query has additionally been high of thoughts for the Fort Value, Texas-based workwear model, which turns 100 subsequent 12 months. The pop-up was a giant deal for the model, which solely has a handful of branded shops within the U.S., all of which goal those that particularly depend on it for practical workwear. It signaled a giant step in direction of embracing that vogue buyer.
Not that it wanted to: As with so many different manufacturers which were adopted by communities aside from those they had been initially supposed for (see: Vans, Patagonia, Champion), Dickies had little if something to do with that preliminary exterior adoption.
“We have been adopted by some cultures for many years and many years; the music group has been adopting us for so long as we are able to bear in mind. And if you concentrate on it, not solely the artists love us, however the individuals behind the scenes who construct the units, who construct the levels, they’re additionally carrying Dickies,” says Kathy Hines, Dickies VP of promoting. “Additionally, completely different sub-cultures within the West Coast, just like the L.A. Latino group, have been adopting us for a very, actually very long time.” There’s additionally, after all, the skateboarding group, the place so many vogue developments begin: “They want probably the most longstanding, sturdy attire on this planet whereas they’re skating, and there is nothing extra sturdy than a product supposed for heavy handbook labor. It simply so occurs that it really works for skate as nicely.”
Dickies has engaged with vogue extra prior to now 5 years or so. It had a protracted and profitable partnership with Opening Ceremony (R.I.P.) and collaborated with the likes of Stussy, Madewell, L.A. menswear boutique Union, Toga and extra. Most not too long ago, in July, it partnered with Halsey’s About Face make-up line to create two purses. These helped revitalize the model and develop its client base.
In 2017, Dickies was acquired for $820 million by VF Corp., a public firm that additionally owns Vans, North Face, Wrangler and, as of final 12 months, Supreme. Clearly, the corporate noticed a chance for Dickies to develop much more.
As Hines explains, authenticity has been essential to carry onto by all of this, as a result of dropping that might finally imply dropping the model’s preliminary enchantment. “One in every of our best strengths is our authenticity and our reality as a workwear model, and that is one thing that we actually, actually maintain very central and we’re very disciplined about, as a result of that is why we’re embraced,” she says.
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Take collaborations — slightly than enable different manufacturers to place the Dickies brand on something, the model approaches these partnerships fastidiously and strategically.
“One of many issues that we attempt to contemplate is rooting it in issues like our iconic product, as a result of that retains it actually distinctive and related to us,” Hines says. “If we invented some assortment — I do not know, I am simply gonna make it up, however — out of doors jackets and boots and sweatshirts, one thing that is not strongly related to our iconic blue-collar workwear, then that would put us at a danger of them going away from the model, as a result of then you definately’re simply placing your brand on one thing that is not true to who we’re.”
Dickies not too long ago debuted a marketing campaign spotlighting what it calls its 5 Icons: the 874 Work Pant, Work Shirt, Coverall, Bib Total and Eisenhower Jacket. It is these iconic merchandise which were adopted by vogue probably the most and, although Dickies would not disclose monetary figures as a model, they’ve seemingly additionally pushed probably the most income. Dickies likes to explain them as “a clean canvas for self-expression” — they’re additionally what consumers can choose up on the Fred Segal pop-up; all through it is length, there have additionally been alternatives to have these things personalized on-site with completely different illustrations and embroideries.
“Dickies had really by no means celebrated the 5 iconic merchandise,” says Hines. “We simply felt prefer it was a very, actually good alternative to introduce them formally, to speak about them and showcase them, each from a workwear perspective in addition to a extra work-inspired or life-style perspective. The timing can be intentional as a result of we’re celebrating our 100 years beginning March of 2022.”
One other tactic Dickies makes use of to make sure it is nonetheless prioritizing and honoring — and never alienating — its unique workwear shoppers is by having separate product groups, one which focuses on efficiency workwear and one which focuses extra on the workwear-inspired attire.
“The best way that we do not alienate them is we take them very, very severely,” Hines says. “We name our employees our athletes, as a result of they’re: They bend, they elevate, they’re doing heavy-duty issues that require efficiency. Holding that entrance and heart and all the time realizing that we’re there to serve the employees and allow them to do their work extra successfully with our efficiency workwear, that actually serves us nicely.”
Along with catering extra to fashion-minded shoppers, Dickies has additionally, prior to now couple of years, made extra of a acutely aware effort to cater to ladies, beginning by addressing a rising cohort of underserved feminine employees.
“We all the time say it: With out workwear, there is no workwear-inspired,” says Hines. “If we do not begin from a spot of authenticity — and for that girl who’s doing blue-collar work or heavy-duty work — then we’d be coming into the ladies’s market with out authenticity.”
She attracts a parallel to the athleticwear trade, which remains to be solely within the early levels of catering to ladies in the identical means it caters to males: “Males’s product was the precedence. I bear in mind we’d say that you’d ‘shrink it and pink it.’ We’re seeing this within the workwear trade; it is traditionally very male. As we see ladies coming in, if we’re simply acutely aware and deal with her with the respect that she deserves as a employee who requires efficiency on the job, that is our place of reality, that is our place of authenticity. Then, after we do lean into life-style or work-inspired [product], it is from a spot of a robust basis.”
Hines is cautious to not reveal too many particulars about what Dickies has deliberate for its one centesimal 12 months, nevertheless it’s clear that extra womenswear and fashion-centric activations are on the horizon, whereas its dedication to these iconic merchandise and handbook laborers hopefully stays regular. Nonetheless, with the backing of a public firm and the duty to shareholders that comes with it, there’s all the time stress to chase progress — and a danger of overextension. (Say, too many collaborations, or ones that do not fairly match.) A minimum of for now, Dickies appears to be on regular floor: It is accessible and respectful of the individuals who assume it is cool, and the individuals who initially made it cool.
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