Starting out as a streetwear focused brand, US-based 3sixteen has quietly grown into a brand that makes quality basics and quite possibly the best value jeans on the market at the moment. And best of all, they've now entered Europe, making their wares more available to the likes of us. We spoke with co-founder Andrew Chen to find out about growing the brand, making solely in the USA and their denim.
Your jeans have gained a reputation as some of the best value jeans around, why do you think this is so?
We've worked really hard to improve our jeans every season, and have fought to maintain our price despite the reality that these improvements have all come at a cost. What we're most excited about with our jeans is the fact that we work directly with our mill in Japan to develop denim that is custom woven to our exact specifications. Most brands at our pricepoint use stock fabrics that mills continually produce, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. But it does mean that anyone who wants to start a jean company can buy the same fabric, slap their own patch on it and call it theirs. This happens more often than you think.
What has it been like building the brand?
Growing 3sixteen has been an incredible experience - my partner Johan and I have gotten to meet so many customers along the way who get what we're trying to do. One of the most rewarding aspects of running the company is receiving an email from a customer who tells us that our products have become a favourite in his closet and that his expectations for the garment were exceeded. Advertising and PR come second to us, the best way to build a brand is to make garments that are invaluable to our customers. That way they're sure to tell their friends about it.
What was the aim when you started 3sixteen and has it changed since?
When we started the company in 2003, we had no formal fashion training so the idea of putting out full collections seemed really far off. Over the years, we've taken steps to learn about every step of garment creation. Today, we are able to manage all aspects of our clothing production so that the final product is something we can be proud of. That definitely took time, though.
How much of 3sixteen is made in the US?
The entire 3sixteen collection is made in the US. Our jeans are sewn in San Francisco, our shirting and outerwear are made in Los Angeles, and our leather goods and accessories are manufactured in Portland by our good friends at Tanner Goods. The sole exception is a custom line of jeans and shirts that we make especially for Self Edge called 3sixteen+. It's co-designed by the shop's founder, Kiya Babzani, and serves as a bit of a playground for us to develop more intense products that might not fit under the 3sixteen brand. This collection features jeans that are manufactured in both the US and Japan.
The brand is still quite US focused; are there plans to focus more on Europe in the future?
While we are definitely pleased with our brand presence and recognition in the US, Europe is a major priority for us. We've noticed that there are so many stores whose brand mix and vision really match up with what we're trying to do. Thus, we've been reaching out each season to try and build relationships. We're thankful for the retail partners that we have - VMC in Zurich, Denim Geek in the UK, and Burg & Schild in Berlin - and look forward to continuing to grow in Europe in the coming months. 3sixteen.com/