Request Jeans was launched in 2001, and has since grown to be an acclaimed denim house. The team specializes in catering to any and everyones need for the perfect fit, wash and quality.
We sat down with Layla Jebara (Brand Executive) and Pete Oakley (Director of Marketing and Public Relations) to discuss how they stay true as a brand and to their consumers, while climbing the ladder of the denim apparel industry.
AllHipHop.com: Who is your target consumer?
Pete Oakley: I really hate to get into that target consumer, because the consumer is the one who makes you the target brand. So, what we try to do is provide great stuff, if you like denim.
If you fit a size 24 to 38 [waist] then this might be a good brand for you.
Layla Jebara: Absolutely. I see girls on the street from age 12 to 13-years-old up to grown women in their 50s wearing my brand. We have numerous styles and fits for the curvaceous to the skinny girl and a little of everyone really.
AllHipHop.com: We understand that you do make different styles of denim for women with various body types. What exactly was the concept behind that, and is there a plus-size division as well?
Layla: There is a plus-size division and is definitely picking up. Its such a huge market especially now, there isnt much [plus-size] business and we decided to jump on it at the perfect time.
AllHipHop.com: [no pun intended] Its a big market.
Pete: I dont think theres a concept to us. Its just making good business moves. To say were very narrow and bottoms driven at least from a perception standpoint. So, within that we know there are no two body types that are the same, and there are different styles that are flattering to individual bodies. Some women wear skinny jeans when they probably shouldnt.
Then there are high-waisted jeans that cover. I think women are a lot more into how it looks. I mean how many pairs of $200 to $250 denim, can you have in your closet [when our stuff looks just as good]? Regardless, of price and brand name at the end of the day you want people to look good in your product.
Layla: Im wearing Request jeans and they look expensive – no one wouldve ever thought.
AllHipHop.com: The quality is great.
Layla: It really is they are my favorites and feel amazing too. I have [Request] in a boot, wide-leg cut, and skinnys. I get compliments in the jeans. We also have a lot of basics [denim with no detail/design], which is like an everyday jean. But, then we can also cater to the girl who is a little bit more trendy. So, thats where we have the high-waisted and wide-waist band jeans.
AllHipHop.com: More like the trouser fit?
Layla: Absolutely, the trouser with the 20 cuff or 22 wide-leg.
Pete: Ask Jamilah [VP of Marketing/Sales at AllHipHop.com] - she has a pair of the Dutchess jeans. We have re-cut [reproduced] it three times already.
AllHipHop.com: I cant wait to see them. Is that the one with the back pocket with zippers?
Layla: Yes its blowing out of the stores. Im getting calls everyday [begging] and Im like, Im sorry its coming back out in a month, I promise. Its crazy. Were re-cutting to launch in February also in March as short-short. Thats going to look hot.
AllHipHop.com: Sounds amazing.
AllHipHop.com: The latest trend is affordable chic. What sets you apart from other denim brands?
Pete: Id like to say [that] quality and depth can be relative. Plus, being a denim house were going to pay more attention to more detail.
Layla: The small, little, tiny, intricate details.
Pete: All of our resources go to bottoms. So the energy is going to this one place; hence the outcome will be better than someone who spread across a whole bunch of different categories [merchandise markets]. The process of washes the testing theres an approval.
Allhiphop: The intricate details matter.
Layla: Even as little as a stitch color, we have to approve it. Everything matters, everything counts. Especially, you know some girls dress down in sneakers and you want to make sure that stitch [color] will match whats going on with the sneakers.
Pete: We are able to take those cues, because we have that ear to the street. I cant stress [enough] having that focus sets us apart.
Layla: Constantly, being in the market and focusing on whats selling and whats hot.
AllHipHop.com: If you have a formula that works, definitely stick to it.
Layla: Dont fix something thats not broken. [laughs]
AllHipHop.com: Do you feel Request has learned from the mistakes of other brands, and how has your experience [Pete] as marketing expert contributed to the growth of the brand?
Pete: I think a lot of companies grow for the sake of growing [over merchandise] too fast and implode. In this case, we want Request to be known for specializing in one thing [denim] and eventually become a lifestyle brand. Ive been here a relatively short time.
Just in my experience, you have the [owner] big guy behind us whos been in the game for decades, with the years of experience. That passes along to Layla, and then to me. I think coming in with Layla, having her hands in so many things, Ive been able to let her see things from a different perspective.
Layla: Ever since Pete joined us, we have seen a huge kick on the street. People requesting for Request more. It definitely helps a lot; marketing is very tactful and useful. I strongly believe in it.
Pete: We learn from each other, her from the marketing, perception, and branding aspect: to me from the business aspect. It really permeates through the whole company. I dont mean to sound cliché, but youre only as strong as your weakest link. Although, were still relatively small, we pack a really big punch.
Layla: Absolutely. Everyone from shipping, designers, and sales has a little something to do with [brand success]. Honestly, without a great sales team what direction is the designer going to get. Yeah shes out in the market shopping, but we need feedback from our customers. Its very important we always keep our eyes and ears open.
With shipping, we are quick and always make sure shipments go out right away. For example, a [retailer] can call us on a Wednesday; we can have the goods to them before the weekend. We have made it our point, to lend a helping hand to the stores asking if they ever need us to promote anything or even go to the stores and visually merchandise.
AllHipHop.com: Thats important. It means a lot to retailers. There are certain brands who are out of touch with retailer/stores besides shipping them product. They just put product in the stores, and the retailers only see a sales or company representative at trade shows.
Pete: We are a wholesaler, but ultimately we still have to sell this brand to the consumer. So, its that balance in between making sure the process from the conception [of designs] to when I put it on a celebrity, to hitting the selling floor, merchandising and supporting the brand with [point of sale] and product placement. It makes the sales process easier.
AllHipHop.com: Request has built up a rapport with the media, yet the brands marketing is under the radar. Was that strategic or just happened?
Pete: In terms of marketing, it has been very strategic and organic. We dont have huge budgets and not throwing a lot of money at it doesnt make sense right now. Putting it through the proper distribution channels – a lot of gifting, seeding, and editor out reach that will spread the word [mouth] on a grassroots level. Its a combination of partnership, be it with editors, stylists, or Layla with buyers. This has to be something both relate upon as mutually beneficial. You know that ebb and flow.
Theres always going to be a strategy, I know how important it is with media. That makes everything easier and less expensive. Weve been in numerous publications and placed our product on various celebrities [like] Nik [Americas Next Top Model, did ad campaign], Rocsi, Angela Simmons, Trina, Leilean [Charm School], Pussy Cat Dolls, and Kelly Rowland.
With product placement, camera phones, and the internet sites like AllHipHop.com all it takes is one person to be seen [wearing the jeans] for every other girl to want it. Nine out of 10 people are waiting for cues from someone. So were really aggressive into getting our stuff into the right peoples hands. We are very confident [as a company] and you are your best salesman and brand ambassador.
AllHipHop.com: Its great to be confident, and should live and breathe what you sell.
Layla: And its obvious when you see the brand. If you dont believe it yourself, then who will.
AllHipHop.com: How do you feel the brand has held up against competitor brands [like Apple Bottoms and House of Dereon]?
Layla: I dont compare, no offense. Requests Spring 08 line will be a whole variety of things. We have short-shorts, capris, bermudas, high-waisted jeans, skinny jeans, and the wide-leg are starting to pick up again in the denim market. The mens division is just as amazing – there will be numerous washes, styles and basic denim as well. Verses women, where we are [denim] specialists. The website Request-usa.com has been huge; we always get emails asking where they can buy the brand. Its been amazing.
Pete: We hold up well. With all respect to my colleagues, its all smoke and mirrors. When you have $300 million, you can make yourself look like something youre not. There are other brands that you may not see in certain publications, because they are urban. These brands have pigeon-holed themselves from their names or why they launched, and are now trying to shake that image. I dont think weve tried or will be labeled that.
We can say were premium. Yet, we let our consumer position us. You are what your consumer says you are. I think we have a nice portfolio so far, and the skys the limit. Well go wherever the market takes us.