Rather than flamboyant, quirky designs, some men usually want to keep it simple in terms of clothing. Yet simple doesn’t have to be dull, but rather wearable with a modern touch and bombproof quality –even though prices might get a bit higher. If you fit this description, you’ll be glad to hear about Blue Owl Workshop, a denim dudes’ mecca in Seattle. Here, you can find quality Japanese-made goods and national league’ players like 3sixteen, Gitman Bros. and Rogue Territory. The store has been around for just over 8 years, so it’s time to catch up with managing director Jay Doughten on his preferred brands, the store’s Denim Buyback program and what it takes to succeed in the denim market today as a retailer or brand.
What brands are your bestsellers and why do you think these brands are successful?
We've curated an assortment of labels we're very proud of and they all do great. Our most successful brands are typically the ones that have a history of quality-made products, and a willingness to adapt to modern styles and demands.
What features are interesting for you when adding a new denim label to your assortment?
With over 3,000 pairs of jeans in-stock at any given time, it can be tough for new brands to grab our attention. A brand needs to offer something that isn't currently represented in our inventory, along with our prerequisites for origin, quality, etc. Our newest label –Pure Blue Japan– brought a variety of different textures and dyes that were currently unrepresented. We're honored to feature their products in our store.
Tell me more about your Denim Buyback Program. How many submissions do you receive? Any garment that stand out from the rest?
Our program is simple - customers are allowed to submit previously purchased denim for consideration towards our online Fade Museum and in-store displays. Upon being accepted, the customer will receive a 30% discount that can be applied towards their next order. We get anywhere from 3-5 submissions a week but only choose to accept pairs that really show off the potential of the respective fabric, like the infamous UB121 seen on our Fade Museum. This particular denim was worn for just over a year via a customer of ours who worked in the Amazon Fresh refrigerated warehouse, and serves as a great educational tool for customers interested in how heavyweight denim ages.
Which are your personal favorite brands out there?
Rogue Territory is my personal favorite brand within the USA. Their quality and design is unmatched in the American market at the moment. It's inspiring to see a small family-owned business like Rogue Territory become one of our best-sellers in just three short years. As for Japanese brands, I'm partial to Momotaro thanks to their complete ownership of the production process. The vertical control they get from owning their own mill, dye house, sewing factory, etc. gives them remarkable freedom when producing their products, and has allowed us to create a number of collaborations that we're extremely proud of.
What attributes do you think a new denim label must have in order to succeed in today's market?
Value. Consumers are more educated than ever and want a product worthy of their dollar. Luxury goods need to warrant the price-point.
In your opinion, what are the most relevant denim trends for men & women right now?
Fits tailored towards more athletic physiques, i.e., larger thighs and slimmer leg openings.
What do you prefer for ordering: Trade shows or showrooms?
Neither. We seek out the brands we want to work with and go to them directly. We want to understand how an item is made, who is making it, and why each piece is special.
What piece of advice would you give to someone wanting to start their own fashion store?
Research, then take ownership. When I first started this business, I thought I knew a lot about fashion. It wasn't until I got fully immersed that I really started to understand the business. However much research you're doing, do more. Then make the commitment and own it.
What do you like about your location, Seattle?
Our location is very unorthodox. We're located on the second floor of a building that's relatively nondescript. Much of our traffic is purely from word of mouth, and in order to find us, you really need to seek us out. This style has earned us a reputation locally as the "denim speakeasy." It also allows us to spend more one-on-one time with our customers, which is important when you're fitting someone for a pair of jeans, or hemming on the spot. We're proud to call the Fremont neighborhood of Seattle our home.
Blue Owl Workshop
707 N 35th St.
Seattle, WA 98103-8802
Opens Monday-Saturday from 10am-7pm, Sunday from 10am-6pm.