Wrangler's Sean Gormley on denim’s staying power
2017 marks Wrangler’s 70th anniversary and the 50th birthday of the Summer of Love. Exactly fifty years also signals the beginning of Wrangler's golden era. 1967 was the year the hippie movement adopted jeans as its uniform, making Wrangler one of the most coveted brands.
Back then, the brand was also tapping into the power of art and fashion with a collaboration with artist Peter Max, which they are repeating now some 40 years later. Under the creative leadership of Sean Gormley, Wrangler Creative Director for nearly four years now, a 1960s vibe is once again setting the tone in 2017, complete with a fall collection by Peter Max.
FashionNetwork.com laced up its roller skates at the Bread & Butter by Zalando (B&&B) in Berlin held last weekend and caught up with the 35-year old to talk about lifestyle, which audience the brand wants to reach and the future of denim.
FashionNetwork.com: It's been 50 years since the Summer of Love and a 70-year brand birthday. How do you have time for a new collection?
Sean Gormley: Initially, we wanted to celebrate the brand's 70th anniversary. Few companies celebrate their 70th; usually more their 50th or their 75th. But there was such a good energy at Wrangler, which we wanted to leverage to reach a younger customer base. Then we realized that the Summer of Love was also turning 50. So we met Peter Max, who we consider a friend and especially appreciate his previous work. I suggested a collaboration for our new collection and now we are celebrating the Summer of Love again.
FNW: How strong an influence does 1967 have on the collection and what is new?
SG: The spirit of 1967 influenced us very much, the casting, the design and even presentation of the products. The collection is inspired by the aesthetics of the 1970s and contains many design elements from the original Peter Max collection.
We have classic iconic Wrangler styles, such as the western jacket or cowboy jeans, which Wrangler customers expect. Besides that, there is a mix of materials and color-blocking that give these classics a modern fashion aesthetic. This is our path, to create fashion and at the same time remain true to our traditional roots.
FNW: Can you reach young customers with that approach?
SG: We have presented the collection at the big fashion fairs like Pitti and received lots of positive feedback, especially about the high quality of the collection and the history behind it. But the B&&B is the first event where we can present the collection directly to the customer.
As a brand, we have to constantly reinvent ourselves and stay present in the customer’s mind. This of course does not happen overnight. Such events are perfect for attracting a younger clientele. Again and again, and this is just the first step. Now we prefer influencers over celebrities in our advertising.
FNW: What does a company like Zalando offer as a partner?
SG: We talked early with Zalando that we want to have a strong presence here. We bounced around some ideas and Rollerdisco was an early favorite. Zalando thought the concept was so great that they even increased our booth space so we could implement the idea.
FNW: What else do you have planned as a birthday celebration?
SG: For the rest of the year, we especially want to tell great stories about the collections and inspire our customers. There will be a major campaign for the women’s Body Bespoke jeans collection and then another interesting Peter Max winter collection in November – a monochrome version of the current collection.
FNW: What can we expect from Wrangler this coming year?
SG: I am a big fan of Wrangler's early years. The campaigns were super sexy and bold. This will certainly influence the upcoming collections, but we also want to factor in the 1990s with blue and yellow tones and the 80s will also take their turn. So, we see the brand's future playing with retro-trends and nostalgia.
FNW: Will you also be doing something with the special Wrangler blue denim, or are there plans to develop new denim materials?
SG: It’s interesting how so many people tell me about their first Wranglers in this blue. That fabric was developed exclusively by Wrangler in 1963 and everyone remembers the slightly softer, more comfortable denim that the brand used to make.
Aesthetically, we will continue to be faithful to our brand DNA. We are experimenting in this area, but we are also not planning any new developments like jogg jeans etc. We produce our fabrics with the latest technology and in the most environmentally friendly way possible.
FNW: Currently, there is a leather revival happening as well as the athleisure trend. Does that have an impact on Wrangler as a denim brand?
SG: Denim is currently celebrating a revival. Denim outlasts all trends, be it yoga or athleisure. Denim stays true to itself but still finds ways to reinvent itself. Right now less "stretchy” is back, which is more authentic, which is how denim should look, and I'm sure millennials and youths will love this denim just as we did when we were kids.
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