Global Executive Search within Fashion, Outdoor & Sportswear.

Question & Answer

Alexander Graah
CEO Dr Denim

23 Dec 2014

Alexander GraahSwedish denim brand Dr Denim celebrates its 10th anniversary in 2014.


To mark the occasion, the Gothenburg based name recently opened its first ever store in Stockholm. Fusion Associates spoke to CEO Alexander Graah to get the lowdown on the retail concept and find out how the family-run brand has progressed since presenting its inaugural pair of skinny jeans.

What’s been the most significant change in the decade since the Graah family launched Dr Denim? So much has happened that it is difficult to single out one event. Perhaps most significantly, the digital world has brought opportunities that weren’t possible when we started out in 2004. Social media has helped us tell the story of the label, reaching fans in remote areas of the world. A guy in the US recemtly discovered us on Facebook and tweeted about a particular style; he then went on to order a pair via our web shop. The story might seem unremarkable today, but ten years ago it was difficult, if not impossible, to reach customers unless they had a access to a Dr Denim stockist.

 

These days you have your own standalone store, which opened its doors in October 2014. It’s a multifaceted affair – please describe the concept and how it came about.Since the start, we’ve envisioned a standalone space allowing us to meet our customer face to face, conveying the brand values in a relaxed, friendly and inspiring environment. The store reflects the brand ethos that centers on passion for denim, progressive design and a non-elitist approach. As for the anatomy of the space, it’s divided into three sections over 86 sqm: “the gallery” serves as a showcase helping to tell the story of Dr Denim. Within it we display certain pieces that we consider important, creatively or for other reasons. The next room is called “the hangout”. Here, coffee is served and customers are invited to take a seat on the comfy bench by the window. The idea is to allow people to discover Dr Denim in a laid-back environment, speak to the staff and relax without feeling pressured to buy anything. What about the actual selling space? An edited range of the collection is housed in the back room – or “the supply room” as we like to call it. You’ll find men’s and women’s jeans and apparel as well as a selection of handpicked items. These bits include some of our favorite magazines as well as notebooks and pens from US company Public Spy. We might also introduce interesting second hand objects that we feel will add to the creative atmosphere and warm, unpretentious feel of the brand.

 

Are you planning to open further stores, and if so where? If the concept works, we would certainly consider opening additional stores in creative cities across the world where we think consumers might appreciate our presence. We would adhere to the original concept, allowing the character of the area and building to shine through the concept. The customer should be able to recognize the Dr Denim signature, but each shop will be unique.

 

You’ve entered the retail arena during a particularly turbulent period. What’s your take on the much discussed demise of retail?It’s not all doom and gloom. If a concept is defined enough to make the store something of a destination, it has a future. Many multibrand stores struggle today, and I believe this is often due to the fact that they rely too much on the labels they stock rather than creating an identity for themselves. Selling cool designer collections in an environment without character is not enough today – the consumer demands a lot more. There is a lot of talk about brands taking over the retail landscape; one reason for this is that they often have distinctive values that translate well in- store. The retail bar keeps rising, you’ll have to put in a lot of effort to stay above it and survive.

  DR Denim

How important is e-commerce to you and what is the latest development within this sphere?We launched our online shop a year and a half ago. Hence, it only accounts for about two percent of total sales but it keeps growing. We’re planning to extend the number of countries we cater to as we’d like to offer more consumers the opportunity to purchase our product. Online shopping is all about service, and it’s important make it convenient by inviting customers to pick up and return purchases to their nearest store if they wish to.

 

How would you sum up Dr Denim’s approach to design? Denim a personal thing for us, not just a product. We design our collections using our own themes, ideas and patterns – we never draw on general trends. Perhaps most importantly, Dr Denim is a progressive brand. The history of denim is amazing but we’ve chosen to interpret it in our own way and look ahead as opposed to relying on heritage influences.

 

What is the production balance between the men’s and women’s ranges? The balance between the two is 50/50, both in terms of production and sales. Our ambition is to be a denim-based brand, not one that caters for men or women in particular. Most pieces are fairly unisex – some men seek out the skinniest styles in the women’s collection while women often buy our baggy men’s sweatshirts.

 

Which markets are key at the moment, and are there any new territories you’d like to break into? Sweden is our biggest market and Europe as a whole is strong. Other important territories are Australia, Japan and Singapore. We don’t have much of a presence in the US at the moment, but we are hoping to establish Dr Denim there in the future.
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