Nowadays, no matter what industry you’re in, it’s important to have a product that stands out — something that is unique and unlike the rest. Insert DUER, the performance apparel brand that proves to be the next success story coming out of Vancouver, Canada. Co-founded by Gary Lenett, DUER has catapulted into the mainstream light, becoming the go-to brand for either the active or leisure lifestyle.
With the slogan “Denim Made For Movement,” DUER takes on an untraditional approach to technical clothing, beginning with jeanswear and utilizing fabric composed of natural and sustainable materials. Taking into account the performance aspect of athleisure, the brand prides itself in creating the most comfortable clothing that don’t only look great, but last a lifetime.
DUER sits on the omni channel business model, selling in retail stores such as Nordstrom and REI, but also opening their own retail locations. First opening doors to their store in their hometown of Vancouver, Lennett now shifts his focus to the Los Angeles market, opening a shop on La Brea Avenue amidst all the other reputable fashion brands in the city.
Flaunt caught up with Gary Lennett virtually, who describes himself as “an old time veteran of the denim and the fashion world.” With three decades of experience in the fashion world under his belt, he states, “this is my newest gig. I’m an old guy, but pretty enthusiastic about what we’re doing.”
Read below as we discuss his experience in the fashion industry, how he came up with the idea of DUER, bridging the gap between fashion and function, thriving during the pandemic, opening their LA store, current denim trends, the future for DUER, and more!
You were trained by Levi Strauss 35 years ago. What did you learn?
At the time they wanted someone in Canada to learn how to make jean jackets and jeans because their factories were too busy. They put my brother and I into their factories and taught us how to make jeans.
Back then when you were working there, did you think you’d have your own brand today?
You know what, I’ve always considered myself an entrepreneur. I’ve worked with people like Levis and other big brands. I worked with most of the big denim brands in the world. I do that work in order to do what I love, which is really to build my own product.
When did you first get the idea for DUER?
About eight years ago now, it was 2013, I was getting out of another business. I was 56 at the time, and I decided I wanted to lead a healthier lifestyle so that is when I started the brand..
That gives me hope because I’m 30 and I feel like I need to have my own business.
Eight years ago, I realized I wasn’t necessarily thinking I was going to start a global brand. What happened was I wanted to downsize my lifestyle and just get healthier. I started riding my bike everywhere, I gave up my car. I don’t know if you’ve ever been to Vancouver, but Vancouver’s a great place to ride a bike. I’m talking about a bicycle. As I was riding my bike, if I had an important meeting but I still wanted to ride, I couldn’t find anything I’d wear as a fashion guy. Because I wouldn’t wear technical outdoor stuff, so that’s where the genesis of the brand came. I wanted something I could wear and do everything I do in a day without changing my clothes, but it had to have a certain style quotient and a certain performance quotient.
You’re bridging the gap between fashion and function. What really sets you guys apart from other denim brands?
The funny thing is, I don’t really even compare ourselves to other denim brands. I compare ourselves more to what I call athleisure brands or outdoors brands. If I think about the origin story: if I was riding my bike and I had about an hour’s commute, there’s no way I could wear a regular jean. The other thing is, I wouldn’t wear athletic pants because it’s usually polyester or synthetic rich, right? So what I did is I took what they call performance gym clothing, but I started with fashion. I started with denim, and put technical into it. It’s a new category. It’s not denim, nor is it outdoors or athleisure. It’s a new category of clothing.
How did COVID-19 affect your business? How was it getting back on your feet in the post-pandemic world?
Our business, we have three different channels. We have our own small retail network, which at the time was four stores. We also sell to 800 stores globally, other retailers, then we have e-commerce. When the pandemic hit, we shut down the first two channels and we were just e-commerce. But luckily, we’ve set the table. We really are a digitally native brand in many ways, that was the core of the business. As with a lot of digitally native brands, our business actually went up year over year.
Can you touch on omni channel retailing and what that means?
The pandemic really drove it home, we’ve been talking about it for quite a while. For us, these channels work. They complement each other. For instance when we had to shut down the retail stores, we had inventory in there. We had store pickup, we were able to fill SKUs that we couldn’t fill online from the stores. We made our store staff into virtual stylists. That’s the most dramatic instance of where one channel is supporting another, but they all work in combination. When you talk about attribution of a sale, often someone will see us online, they’ll see us in another retailer, they may walk into our store, then they’ll go back online and buy it. They all work together in order to get the brand awareness out there.
How is the retail landscape as a whole? How’s online versus brick and mortar?
Well our businesses come back quite strong, but e-commerce is still the driver. It depends on which part, not only what country. Because we sell globally to 52 different countries, it’s been so crazy. Eastern Canada is open and it shuts down. Again, our e-commerce growth is pretty constant. The brick and mortar part, it really depends on the geographic area and how hard they’re being hit by COVID.
What’re you most excited for with the LA store opening?
I’m really excited about it! If you think about the quintessential Vancouver lifestyle I was talking about where we can go golfing and skiing in the same day, we’re very outdoor-oriented — I really think it’s well-suited of course for Southern California and LA. We have a lot of brand fans there. They haven’t been able to see the full manifestation of our brand in a brand store up until now, and I’m excited to see what will happen.
You guys are in the Fairfax district amongst a bunch of streetwear and really notable brands. What does it mean to have that location?
It was natural for us, because of the other brands. There’s one great jeans store in particular on that street, it’s iconic, and a whole bunch of outdoor brands. We sit in between outdoors and fashion so it made sense for us. I’m really looking forward to seeing how LA takes DUER.
How was it opening your first shop in Vancouver? How did it compare?
When we opened our first shop in Vancouver, we were a tiny little brand. It was really in the front of our design studio, I remember we put up a really very simple changing room. It was pretty exciting for me. I hadn’t done a lot of retail in my career. I’ve done a lot of building brands, but usually by selling to other retailers. It’s pretty cool for me to be able to get in and work with consumers directly. Get to eyeball them, see what’s working and what’s not working.
What would you say are the current denim trends?
As you know, trends are changing all the time, especially in this day of the internet. I don’t think there’s a predominant trend right now in terms of silhouettes, or even look. I can tell you my belief is there’s two trends that came out of the pandemic, that are definitely going to stay and they’re accelerating. One of them is this push towards more of this active, healthy lifestyle trend. When people couldn’t do anything else, when they couldn’t go to restaurants, they could get outdoors on their bikes.
The other trend that’s really accelerating is this trend towards comfortable clothing, because everybody was inside wearing shorts or pajamas or whatever. Now they’re ready to go out, but they don’t want to give up on the comfort. You’re going to see more and more brands like ourselves that are giving you products that allow you to feel like you’re wearing your pajamas, but you look good and stylish.
What does the future look like for DUER?
Well, we’ve been pretty lucky. I’ve made this allusion before, we grew, even during the pandemic. Now as we’re coming out of the pandemic, we’re growing really fast. We’re opening up, accelerating our retail expansion. We’re up in LA, we opened up in Denver during the pandemic.
How was that whole process?
Well, it’s a bit different opening up during a pandemic because we did most of the work remotely, but the store and everything’s gone really well. The biggest thing for us: it’s not so much what we’re going to change, but how we’re going to get more reach. We’re quite a well-known brand both in Canada, Northern Europe, and parts of the United States, but it’s really about doing what we’re doing and executing on it better.
Anything else you want to let the people know?
No, just come by and see. Our store’s so cool. Because everybody talks about experiencental retail, but I don’t find that many people do it. Our brand is all about living an active, healthy lifestyle, so we put an adventure playground right into the store. You have come, we have swings and monkey bars.
I love swings so much!
Yeah, it’s so much fun. Come down and take a look.