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Denim designer Williamsburg Garment Company
Start a business built to do business today, not yesterday
A one-man enterprise and American denim brand, Williamsburg Garment Company produces denim jeans in the United States of America. The simple goal is just that: To produce high quality jeans made in the United States of America. In conversation with Fibre2Fashion, the company's denim designer Maurice Malone speaks about the USP of his products and the denim market.
What inspired you to make jeans in the United States of America?
A few things led me to move my production from China to the United States of America. Working for many years in China, I watched how they used manufacturing to help the growth of their economy. After conversations with my friend who owned the factory in which my clothing was made in China, I realised that if I sacrificed a little individual gain for the greater good, I could be a small part of helping to bring American garment manufacturing back to the country.
So, when President Barack Obama asked companies to bring manufacturing back to the United States of America, I answered the call and named our first American-made jeans Hope Street in honour of the President. It also happens to be a street in Williamsburg.
When our first American-made jeans proved very successful retailing at only a few dollars more than before, I knew the bulk of our customers would gladly pay a little more for American jeans over imported ones. So, I moved all Williamsburg Garment Company (WGC) production to the United States of America later that year.
What is the growth story of WGC?
During the slump in the economy near the end of the Bush years, I could not find investors for the brands I wanted to launch. I was laid off after having a job for a short time and could not find work. I was amazed that someone with my talent, capable of doing any job at a clothing company, could not get hired.
I freelanced to save money to start my own venture. When I started WGC, I wanted to inspire other designers and entrepreneurs and prove that one person using the technology of the day can build and operate a major internationally known brand.
I started the brand going the traditional wholesale, tradeshow route but had my eye on the future, which I believed was direct to consumer via e-commerce. I got the jump by building a powerfully optimised low-cost website that out-performed big expensive websites that focused on looks instead of being found through search optimisation. As my direct-to-consumer business grew, I found no time to chase less profitable wholesale to retailers. Today, although I still sell to retail stores, I do it only if buyers contact me. I no longer call on stores or do tradeshows. I just do not have the time.
What are the advantages and disadvantages of running a one-man show?
The disadvantage is with time. I found myself constantly optimising everything I do, yet there is still only so much time in a day. After nearing the ceiling or topping out, I got help.
The advantage is, you are in direct, unfiltered contact with consumers, which helps you understand the relationship between your buyers and products. This helped me build a strong base for the company. That is important for growth. Knowing who you are, what you do and who you are marketing to give you a strong foundation to stand on.
As the designer of a one-man company, people often ask me how I spend most of my time. My answer is, most of my time is spent working on my website, optimising, updating and writing content because the site is the engine that drives my sales. The next large chunk of time is used answering emails, customer service, marketing/online advertising and shipping. Then comes accounting, general maintenance and finally, production and design. Optimising production and design early help me to spend less time on it today with occasional tweaks here and there.
What sets your raw denim jeans apart from those of your competitors'?
What makes us the same is what sets us apart. We use the same fabrics as most of our American-made brand competitors while having better or equal quality in sewing and construction. There are only so many ways you can sew a seam and we try to use the best techniques that garner the best results for the design or style. Then, we apply a high level of attention to details.
The biggest separator then becomes our price and branding. Many like to claim fit is the deciding factor, but when you make so many fits, it is likely someone has a fit close to yours. So, when you add all the above, we are priced well below most American-made brands that meet us in quality and fits. It is our pricing or the way we lack branding, which is the biggest thing that sets us apart. You can buy jeans made in the United States of America cheaper from Kickstarter-type brands but then you end up waiting months to get the product and quality could be an issue. This is the sweet spot. Many of our customers want moderately priced, great quality, branded American made jeans without the wait.
The last factor is branding. Most jeans are branded on the outside while we brand on the inside. We simply give a classic, clean product without a lot of extras.
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