Behind the Booth with Baldwin Denim Co-Founder, Matt Baldwin

Behind the Booth with Baldwin Denim Co-Founder, Matt Baldwin

Sunday, February 22 2015

Matt Baldwin, co-founder and chief visionary of Baldwin Denim, is constantly designing, innovating and growing his brand. He is the epitome of an entrepreneurial spirit. Baldwin started his fashion career at FIDM Los Angeles, earning a degree in Apparel Manufacturing. Next, Baldwin and his wife opened a specialty clothing boutique in Kansas City. Baldwins states:  

Working in the retail industry is like getting a masters degree in supply chain management as well as management of people and inventory. We did that while pioneering in Kansas City, which is now synonymous with the Baldwin brand. We are deeply rooted in the community and have a true understanding of the consumer markets.

During the recession in 2009, Baldwin streamlined the store’s inventory from 30 denim brands down to only three because of the market shift. He felt this was the perfect time to launch Baldwin Denim. He started with three pairs of jeans that he knew the market needed. He says, “We backed up our design with the best Japanese and American selvedge material for men. On our first day, we sold 23 pairs! Our growth has been organic yet intentional, allowing customers to help shape our trajectory with certain products.”

Next, Baldwin designed a small capsule collection of pants, sweaters, jackets and other pieces to complement the denim. Jay-Z bought the camo pants. Baldwin says, “He built consumer confidence outside of denim. His endorsement took our line into streetwear and started camo trending worldwide.” Two years ago, GQ even named Baldwin as the Best Menswear Designer.

Moving into a Women’s Line

Baldwin Denim is two seasons into Baldwin Girl. Baldwin says:

The inspiration for Baldwin Girl comes out of our viewpoint for style, lifestyle, design and relevant markets. The Baldwin Girl is approachable, utilizing subtle details that make her feel right wherever she is at the moment. She has a sophisticated, casual look, pairing smart knits with jeans. She has a cool and neutral pallette that helps her feel good in any scenario. This collection hits the mark for advanced contemporary.

Passionate About Brick and Mortar

Baldwin is a brick and mortar enthusiast, so they now have four retail stores in Kansas City. One unique extension developed in 2009 is reclaiming their customer’s jeans that have been broken in over years. The brand uses these worn-in jeans to create similar washed looks. They currently have an archive of around 100 pairs, and they name their new wash/fade after the customer who provided it. The campaign is called #MyBaldwin.

Developing a Philanthropic Arm

Baldwin has been working on laying the foundation for their philanthropic arm. They have a program called Rep Your Hood, utilizing the KC baseball hat designed in their brand vibe with their signature white rivet which is on the back of every pair of jeans. They have incorporated a $1 “give element” for every Rep Your Hood piece sold. Baldwin Denim also partners with retailers in their distribution chain where they can designate funds to their local cause based on the units sold. Baldwin is just one season into Rep Your Hood, and is preparing for its official launch in 2016.  Baldwins says that since 2009, they have sold upwards of 50,000 hats, including those he designed for the GAP stores campaign.

Baldwin is also excited about their global orphan project in Haiti, where they are working on cutting and sewing tees. He says, “We have beautiful things shaping up, but are in the early stages of build.”

Engaging via Social Media

Baldwin Denim enjoys the interactive capabilities of social media. Baldwin says:

It is a team effort. A lot of my voice is there, but there are various touchpoints from team members and customers. It adds to the experiential element of the brand. Social media was a huge part in launching us nationally and internationally. We are intentional about balancing the physical world and our cyber relationships, while being authentic about it.

Continuing to Build and Expand

Baldwin Denim has been building a strong and solid infrastructure for the past 11 years. Baldwin says:

Our branded products are at the core. Our seasonless staples like basic tees, fleece and denim are 80% of the business. We will take that other 20% and build more into presentation and progression into tailoring. This season, we offered a suit for first time, as well as some nice cashmere knits. We also have a new trajectory strategy for 2016.  We are investing back into our KC community through a design office with some emerging retail and future concepts, blending tech with brick and mortar. We are prepping for our first store further away, like New York City. Our vision is to build 10 meaningful stores in the US and then look internationally.

There is no lack of drive, vision or enthusiasm with Matt Baldwin leading the charge at Baldwin Denim. They will be disrupting fashion for years to come with their own innovative and connective brand integrations. He says, “We have been on a journey and haven’t stopped working since we unlocked the door in 2003. We haven’t looked up since... because we love what we do.”