Last month The London Journalist attended the UK launch of luxury tailor-made Swiss jeans start-up SELFNATION at the Salako Salon, Marylebone. We met with founder Andreas Guggenbuehl to discuss how the internet, technology, and their utopian business model is set to revolutionise the fashion industry.
It might sound like the typical story of two young entrepreneurs who came up with an idea to solve an everyday problem everyday people face, but the founders of SELFNATION may have stumbled upon a solution to the darker problems within the fashion industry.
Andreas Guggenbuehl, who grew up in the Swiss mountains ‘in the land of William Tell’, recalls how he and co-founder Michael Berli, who Guggenbuehl describes as a tech maverick and the engine behind their e-commerce, chanced upon the idea in 2013 to revolutionise the practise of purchasing a pair of jeans: ‘We were out jeans shopping with some female friends in Berlin and, after a very long day, thought that there must be an easier way to find the perfect fit...’
Indeed, a study by Levi’s claims that on average a customer tries on 14 pairs of jeans before settling on just one. Guggenbuehl also reminds me that jeans are the second most bought item of clothing after the T-shirt.
At the time Guggenbuehl and Berli were a pair of young mechanical engineers studying at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich. Guggenbuehl, a self confessed ‘tech-geek’, immediately set about researching the traditional techniques of garment making with the aim to create an logarithm that could fully embody the knowledge, expertise and skillset of a master tailor. This logarithm would then be inputted into a sophisticated pattern-cutting machine. Thousands of coding lines later, Guggenbuehl ambitious logarithm was successfully presented as his university thesis. Guggenbuehl recounts how he personally sewed together the very first pair of jeans that would be the prototype for their perfectly fitting jeans today, which currently have a 10,000 strong customer base in Switzerland.
‘No matter what figure you have, our logarithm will work to fit you’ says Guggenbuehl, with the bright-eyed enthusiasm of a tech genius. SELFNATION's customers are sent a free branded measuring tape in the post and are invited to measure themselves in the privacy of their own homes, following a simple video tutorial on the website.
Once the customer’s measurements, choice of fabric, style and personalised monogram are inputted to the website and an order is made, (for those who are hesitant to purchase jeans without ‘trying them on’, a lifelike 3D-rendering is produced from the customer’s measurements and styles chosen) it takes just 10 minutes to order and two weeks for your perfectly tailored machine-cut hand-stitched jeans in stunning Italian denim to arrive to your door.
The jeans are not only of the highest quality and fit perfectly, as you’d expect from fully tailored jeans, but are incredibly flattering and allow the kind of freedom of movement that a pair ordinary off-the-rack jeans could never live up to. ‘We want to create jeans that incorporate the precise quality of a Swiss Army Knife,’ says Guggenbuehl. Is he perhaps a perfectionist I ask? ‘Yes, but more than that I am an idealist.’
It seems that Guggenbuehl’s idealism could not have presented itself at a better time, as the rise of conscious or ‘woke’ consumers are demanding ever more from the highstreet and designer brands that previously sated them.
The recent Louis Vuitton x Supreme collaboration comes to mind as extreme example of the original values of luxury becoming lost in translation. What was once the stolen luxury ‘LV’ logo rebelliously emblazoned on Supreme’s streetwear, has now manifested itself into a collaborative deal aiming to exploit desperate and desire driven consumers. This is a case of scarcity rather than quality amplifying both prices and demand.
We have all seen how high street and high-end fashion designers reputations have suffered due to the increased awareness of the obscene conditions endured by sweatshop workers. Not to mention the vast wastage at elite fashion houses who prefer to burn factories full of unsold merchandise (worryingly contributing to C02 emissions) rather than sell at a discount and risk diluting the impression of extravagant and ultimately unaffordable luxury. Now that consumers are enlightened to these unethical practices, no doubt heightened by growing globalisation, achieving ‘Zero-Waste’ sustainable fashion has finally become a hot topic within the industry.
SELFNATION’s unique technology and modus operandi means, that although they maintain a fast machine-driven turnover, they hold no idle or dead stock. Moreover, as each piece is tailor-made to order, the company only produces what they have already sold. SELFNATION has a zero-wastage policy, and any returns happily reused as samples for their pop-up shops around Europe.
The ability to further customise SELFNATION jeans beyond the bespoke measurements with a small and unassuming monogram featuring the customer’s initials is a refreshing change from the fashionistas who slavishly present ostentatious logos that serve only to advertise the designer and advise onlookers on the wearer’s wealth and status.
Rather, in a move of pure stealth luxury, SELFNATION customers prefer to wear their own initials in conjunction with their own measurements, adding to their individuality and own personal brand. This will no doubt appeal to the millennials and the instagram-generation who are ever-searching for unique ways to differentiate themselves from the masses and the cookie-cutter, WGSM prescribed culture.
SELFNATION offer top quality tailor-made customisable jeans, chinos and shorts for both men and women. The unique pieces are produced with traditional tailoring in Germany and Switzerland and the fabric for the pants is woven in Italy. SELFNATION makes the rivets and buttons from a German company, which is specialized in this field for over 100 years.
If a pair of jeans does not fit, the customer has three options: the pants can be adjusted by a tailor - against receipt the extra charge is then reimbursed – one can have completely new bespoke pants from SELFNATION, or one can demand a full refund.
The London Journalist