“I spend a lot of time in the mall food court,” admits True Religion’s new CEO Farla Efros. And it isn’t because she enjoys Sbarro’s or Orange Julius. Instead, Efros is playing a sort of non-covert version of the popular Undercover Boss TV show. The Efros variety, however, consists of her tirelessly visiting True Religion retail stores throughout North America, seeking information and learning about what’s selling from the folks on what she calls “the front lines” of the brand.

“I am not in the food court to eat,” Efros says. “I’m there to understand the demographics that are in that mall to make sure we have the right product to serve that demographic. I talk to the people in our stores. What is working and what can we do at corporate pushing stuff down to them? What can we do to make their job easier? I uncover all sorts of things that we just didn’t know. It’s allowed us to pivot into adding different initiatives."

True Religion's new CEO Farla Efros
Photo: Douglas Cringean
True Religion's new CEO Farla Efros
“I was in Houston yesterday so I’ve now seen over 40 of our stores and I will get to all of them,” Efros continues. “But what’s been fascinating to me is that if you have a great location and a great store manager and staff, these people are passionate about the brand and they know how to sell product. That’s been so evident. Last Thursday, I was actually selling and doing cash and they were all here, at corporate, watching me on the camera and I literally had our head of stores send me a text telling me to get off my phone. We were just laughing and having a great time. The customer was taking selfies with me. They really love our brand.”

 

That devoted True Religion customer is someone that Efros and her team cherish and, as they revitalize and revive the heritage brand, they don’t wish to lose him or her. “You have to love your customer,” says Efros. That long time, dedicated True Religion fan is, however, often at odds with the more editorial, sophisticated style that True Religion once had and still eyes. “We want to make sure that we embrace and love our current customer but we allow the brand to evolve,” she continues. “We want to include the ones we weren’t focused on before. We do not want to abandon what we are and that’s the horseshoe and the Buddha. They are the things that people know us from, our defining assets. But our goal is to create more assets that allow us to differentiate, that allow us to attract some more highly sophisticated customers that, before, we had but lost sight of.”

True Religion's Unisex capsule
Photo: True Religion
True Religion's Unisex capsule
The brand is currently testing out a few ideas for the higher end market. Different markings and such will allow that, particular customer in on the brand at another level. “Some people will always love to spread the name but others will always want less of a big emblem and more about having something on the sleeve or on the corner, building that credibility and not screaming the brand name. After all, you can see someone across the street wearing a Chanel jacket and you can see that it’s Chanel but it doesn’t have to be emblazoned with the CC. At the end of the day, the customers are going to tell us if they like it or not.”

 

To this end, True Religion is planning the introduction of the new True Religion 1888 collection. Coming in January of 2020, this small collection is under the management of new creative director, and all around fashion influencer, Allen Onyia. The name 1888 is in homage to the address of the brand’s headquarters in sunny Manhattan Beach, California. “It will be a small collection, evolving the brand,” states Efros. “Ninety five percent of True Religion will still be what we are and what everyone knows us for but this small percentage will be about 1888 and will be quite exclusive. It’s iconic for us because this is where we actually do everything, where all the magic is made and developed, designed and sketched. It truly makes sense and we are so proud of the people we have working for us.”

Efros next to one of True Religion's new ad campaign images
Photo: Douglas Cringean
Efros next to one of True Religion's new ad campaign images
As for the bigger, 95% section of True Religion, Efros and her team rightfully demand credit for their industry pedigree. “For the longest time, we have been producing incredible product. We have never stopped but we never get credit for what we have been doing,” she states, emphatically. “We were the ones that, when the brand launched, created the white space. There was nothing to that degree before we came along. At the end of the day, I want to get the credit for the denim we put in place. It’s well fabricated, stylish, wide leg, skinny, distressed, a range of sizes. We should be getting credit for it.”

 

After all, True Religion were one of the first to offer a wide range of sizes, including those to fit larger body styles. The brand’s latest ad campaign is a testament to this, using the women from the office headquarters, in a range of sizes, heights, colors and builds. “We all have different shapes and sizes along with inhibitions of different sorts,” says Efros. “If you hear their individual stories and hear them talk, they say they would never have thought they’d be in an ad campaign. Everyone has body image issues. Real people are real and that is who is buying our product. I’d rather people aspire to real people in different shapes and sizes. You don’t have to be a size zero. I think it’s great to love who you are. That’s our philosophy and the importance of our new campaign.”

Current jeans looks
Photo: True Religion
Current jeans looks
From embracing and expanding for the old school customer to continuing the growth the sizing options along with attracting new, more sophisticated customers and taking on stringent corporate and brand sustainability commitments, the True Religion crew, headed up by Efros, is optimistic about the future. And the congenial workplace ambiance proves this. “This is not a revolution,” Efros reminds us. “We’re not tossing out everything. Instead, it’s an evolution. We are evolving the brand and kind of bringing it back to where it should be. We have a very clear mission, vision, values and corporate strategy. We’ve all put our hands together and said we’re going to do this and march to the same beat. Today is a journey and we have an incredible story to tell and we are here, excited, telling it.”

 
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