Retail laid bare with Nudie Jeans’ Matthew Stone
Where others follow, Nudie Jeans leads. Since 2001, they’ve been driven by the mission to make the best product possible, and to do it in a way which means they can sleep soundly at night knowing they’ve achieved some small good in the world.
The pillars of good people, good product, and a good way of doing business are what underpin Nudie Jeans. It’s why they’re pioneers of sustainability in retail. From the relationship they have with their suppliers through to their Repair Shops and ethos of repurposing all pairs of jeans, sustainability flows through every inch of their DNA.
We caught up with Matthew Stone, Retail Regional Manager Sweden for Nudie Jeans, to find out more about the Nudie Jeans story, why sustainability is so important for the industry, and to get his take on what the future of retail holds. Originally from Colorado in the US, Matthew has worked for Nudie jeans since 2015, starting as a sales coordinator before moving up to store and then regional management. We met Matthew at one of the Nudie Jeans Repair Shops in the center of Stockholm and here’s what he told us…
It’s great to have you here, Matthew. For people who aren’t familiar with Nudie Jeans, what’s the story behind the brand?
I like to explain the story behind Nudie Jeans as a dream and an ambition from the people who started the company to create a good business, a business where they can go to sleep at night knowing that they’re doing the best job that they could – and that just happened to be with denim and the love for denim.
Through the journey we’ve been on and through the years we’ve already learnt so much but we always keep our eyes forward. We want to become even better through learning and really trying to share what we learn not only with other people in the industry but with our wonderful customers who we help every single day.
We know in retail right now there’s a lot of greenwashing around sustainability but, having read your sustainability report, this absolutely isn’t the case with Nudie Jeans. What does sustainability mean to you?
You know, that’s a great question. The core behind this is that sustainability is in our DNA. This isn’t something we came up with randomly. It’s something we’ve been working with for years that’s organically grown into what it is today.
Today, making the best product possible translates to the growing of the 100% organic cotton that’s used to make our denim and the relationships we have with the farmers, factories and distributors of the fabric we use. It means looking after the people who make our products and ensuring they are treated fairly and paid a living wage.
“Being as transparent as possible is so important with sustainability because it lets everyone know how you’re working and what exactly it is you’re doing.”
And we make all of this transparent through our sustainability report. Being as transparent as possible is so important with sustainability because it lets everyone know how you’re working and what exactly it is you’re doing.
You can actually go into our website and see all of the different audits we have with the different factories and the areas that need improving. We don’t hide anything. Everything is all there as being as transparent as possible is a big driving factor for us.
This then carries over to our stores which we call our Repair Shops – because that’s exactly what they are. We offer free repairs, for life, on all of our jeans. And if you don’t want your pair of jeans anymore you can hand them into us and we’ll gladly take them back. We also offer a 20% discount off a new pair of jeans to help influence customers to not just throw them away when they are through with them but to bring them to us so we can do something good with them. We sell these reused, second hand jeans in our stores and this allows us to put new life into someone’s trash and create someone else’s treasure.
“This allows us to put new life into someone’s trash and create someone else’s treasure.”
Sustainability also goes hand in hand with selling wonderful garments. We sell, in my opinion, some of the best or the best jeans that you can get. But the cool part about them is they are also a very sustainable product.
It’s non-negotiable for us and we want our customers to see we’re the real deal when it comes to sustainability – whether that’s seeing how much electricity our Repair Shops use or where the denim comes from.
How has customer behavior towards sustainability changed since you started with Nudie Jeans back in 2015?
I’ve seen a big increase in the consumer demand for sustainable products. Increasingly, people want to feel good about the clothing they put on their bodies. With Nudie, we tell the story of the wonderful people in our factories making our garments and, because our customers know these people are being treated correctly, it drove a lot of talk around what we were doing. Demand has skyrocketed for sustainable products and products that can be repaired as well as reused – this is a trend that is only going to grow.
What does the future of retail hold and what role does sustainability play?
For us, retail right now and in the future is all about sustainability. The last few years have shown us we have to be adaptable and have the technology that allows us to adapt quickly.
“The last few years have shown us we have to be adaptable and have the technology that allows us to adapt quickly.”
The future of retail is also about physical stores. We need people to have those wonderful interactions, to ask questions, to touch products and try them. We see our Repair Shops being a very strong standpoint in our future. Of course, they’ll be connected with our online team. And, as a company, we connect to both. So we don’t look at retail as just the physical or just the digital – for us retail is an entire family. It’s the great team that’s working to run the online shop and also the wonderful team of people that come to work every single day inside of one of our physical shops.
It’s also about challenging ourselves. Our sustainability team works with our design team and this makes some of the fun things we’ve been able to do possible. The design team is always being pushed to go past their limits and redefine what’s possible. They’re able to make some really great garments that we maybe wouldn’t have had if we didn’t have the sustainability team pushing their boundaries.
“We have this new hybrid way of working with connecting all the sales channels and that’s exciting.”
So, for us, being able to be the most sustainable company doesn’t mean we’re there today. It just means that we’re going to go on this adventure together and always try to push our limits. That’s what I’m excited for. We have this new hybrid way of working with connecting all the sales channels and that’s exciting. It allows for new job opportunities and it also allows the current roles to most likely be some sort of hybrid version of what they used to be. We’re an old industry and maybe it was a little bit boring a few years ago, but not today. Today, I see a really bright future for working in retail.
What role does the tech you use in-store play in helping you be as sustainable as possible?
In-store tech is something we value very highly. We have quite an advanced system where we’re able to use our Repair Shops as fulfillment hubs rather than sending from just one warehouse that’s on the other side of the country. So, if a customer lives just a few miles away from a Repair Shop, we can send the order from that store. This means we can provide a better experience for the customer because, when they know they’re getting something from a local shop, it’s something they feel good about.
We use Sitoo as our POS and Unified Commerce Platform and Sitoo connects to all our other retail systems and our webshop. It’s super easy and means store associates and customers in-store can see stock availability both online and in other stores. Plus if a customer wants to order something that isn’t available in the store they’re visiting – then another store, that is close to the customer, can get a ping to pack and send the order to the customer’s address. Same thing if a customer orders something online, we can ship that order from a store that is close to the customer.
“It allows us to be extremely adaptable which we believe is vital to the future of retail.”
We have a great relationship with Sitoo. The system is so easy to use that we don’t even have to think about it, which is exactly what we want because it means we can focus on doing our jobs which is helping our customers find what they want. One of the most rewarding parts of using the system is the way it integrates so nicely with all the other systems we use to carry out our day to day actions in the store. It allows us to be extremely adaptable which we believe is vital to the future of retail.
Watch the filmed interview: