Ten years ago, denim industry veteran Gary Lenett designed a line of stretchy performance pants that could move comfortably “from the bike path to the boardroom to a night out”, and a new brand was born. Vancouver-based company Du/er (like the “makers” who wear it, you know?) sells clothing, for men and women, that literally stretches from work to weekends without ever giving you the feeling of wearing sweatpants.
It’s an addictive concept, frankly. With a pair of Du/er No Sweat Pants or All Weather Denims or their Only Tee in your closet, fashion takes on an on-the-go simplicity. In any situation, whatever Du/er you’re looking for pretty much solves the age-old dilemma of “what should I wear?”
I love Du/er’s versatility and everyday elegance – take a look at their three-in-one all-weather jacket, for example – and was intrigued to find that the online retailer also has physical stores, including one here in Los Angeles. Learning that the company isn’t part of a giant clothing conglomerate made me like them even more, so I checked in with Lenett, who spent years at Levi Strauss, to find out what’s going on with Du /st.
Give me the origin story of Du/er in 30 seconds.
Gary Lenett: Here is the exact moment. I was 56 years old and wanted to leave the fashion industry, which is not really intuitive to start a new clothing business. I had really lost my enthusiasm for travel and work. I wanted to simplify and become a little healthier. I started cycling everywhere. But I couldn’t find anything I could wear to meetings that I could then wear on the bike. Regular jeans, like Levi’s Commuter jeans, didn’t make it on an hour-long bike ride. So I thought, oh, maybe I’ll make a product for myself and that’ll be my little retirement gig.
And here you are a decade later. How is your enthusiasm now?
Gary Lenett: I’m having more fun than ever in my life and I’m more stimulated than ever by the people around me. At this point in my career, I don’t really measure success in terms of turnover. We’re not trying to be a multi-billion dollar company. But we want to make a great product and, yes, be profitable and help people dress up and be happy. And that makes me happy. I feel very enthusiastic.
What is the most successful product in your range?
Gary Lenett: Our top two selling styles are the two we created in a 2015 Kickstarter to begin with. The basic slim jeans in Performance denim – high stretch, antimicrobial, moisture wicking – and the No Sweat pants, which look like sweatpants, but look like real pants. Those two, in different washes and colors, probably make up about 65, 70% of our sales.
Tell me your favorite Du/er customer story.
Gary Lenett: How long do we have? I mean, that’s what really drives me. I get text messages, emails, customer reviews almost every day saying, “Hey, I used to take escalators and elevators. Now when I wear your product, I run to upstairs. But a guy I know here in Vancouver, he was having dinner at a club that has an ice rink. He was having dinner in the dining room, and this panicked person ran to get a hockey referee for the peewee hockey team because the ref didn’t show up. The guy jumped up, took off his dinner jacket and went to refed the game in his Du/er jeans and shirt. C That’s how I envisioned it from the beginning. We try to solve everyday problems with our clothes. One of our slogans is that we make it easy for people to dress and carry on.
What is your next problem to solve as a brand?
Gary Lenett: It depends on what level. At the 10,000 foot level, one of our mantras is “plant pants”. We’re definitely on a mission against polyester from a sustainability standpoint, not just because of my feel and look preference, but because of what polyfilaments are doing in our oceans. For us, 95% of our fibers are natural, but I would like to reach 100% eventually. The trick is to use natural fibers, but make them strong enough to be durable so they don’t end up in a landfill. We consume 60% more clothes than 20 years ago and almost half are thrown away in 50% less time than before. We want people to wear our clothes as much as possible but also for as long as possible. It’s good for all of us.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.