Denim brand Cross Jeans celebrates its 25th anniversary this year. We talked to founder and managing director Ersin Binicioglu about his view on the denim industry, the characteristics of Cross and how he manages the current crisis.
Congratulations on the 25th anniversary of Cross Jeans. You have been with the company since its beginnings. What is the most memorable experience at Cross Jeans during this period for you?
Thank you very much. As founder of the brand Cross Jeanswear in Germany I can look back on a long experience. The most memorable experience in our company's history is probably the current year, as the worldwide Covid-19 pandemic confronted us with new challenges that had not been on the market before. It is a very challenging–but at the same time an exciting time, in which we have learned to look at things from new perspectives and thus look forward to the coming year with confidence.
After 25 years: How would you describe your company in three words?
I think this can be expressed very appropriately with “Denim For Life.” We have been living denim and the philosophy around this great material with a lot of passion for 25 years now.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
The passion for the product, denim. Denim is constantly reinventing itself and is one of the most important and consistent trend products in the textile market. Above all, however, our growing team, the cooperation with our brand partners and the constantly new trends, which consistently present me with new challenges and drive me forward.
Due to the close cooperation with the production facilities in Turkey and the direct exchange of information with each other, it was already possible in 1995 to be immediately available for the market with an extensive NOOS portfolio. Within 24 hours our goods could be shipped and thus enabled us to react very quickly to the orders of our dealers.
And what distinguishes the brand from other denim brands today?
We have always been an important contact for the trade when it comes to a strong and meaningful NOOS program. We have been working together with our brand partners for many years and are in close contact with each other. We always act innovatively, sustainably and distinguish ourselves by a high degree of consistency in the market. Our specially set up B2B online store enables our trading partners, for example, to react to the current sales situation at short notice and to process the order entry independently and without minimum slots. After receipt of order, our goods are available to our partners within 48 hours.
Cross Jeans stands for tradition, vision and denim expertise. We have internalized this philosophy and have always maintained it over the last 25 years. Continuity in the team also plays a major role here: more than half of our employees have been with the company for over 10 years–some even over 20 years. They embody Cross Jeans, and such a well-rehearsed team helps us to define new goals together with other initiators and to remain efficient.
There is also the global headquarters in Turkey next to the European one in Berlin. Do you position Cross Jeans as a German or a Turkish brand when it comes to marketing?
We do not differentiate in communication. We see ourselves as a German company with Turkish roots, to which we naturally owe a large part of our denim know-how. With our parent company, we have a good partner with whom we are in regular contact and with whom we continue to grow.
Due to the current situation we are not planning any new stores at the moment. We see ourselves as a strong trading partner for the stationary retail trade and have focused on the expansion of e-commerce.
In general: What does the retail of the future look like for you? Will there still be brick-and-mortar stores in 30 years?
The point of view of end consumers and dealers has changed in the last years and not least regarding Covid-19. I am firmly convinced that the classical retail trade will reinvent itself and adapt to the current conditions and needs of the customers. Consumers have to be picked up more from the product and the brand again and a new awareness for personal advice has to be created in times of online shopping. This will definitely lead to shifts in the stationary retail sector. We are monitoring this development very closely.
How important is the online business for Cross Jeans and how has it developed throughout the years?
The restructuring of the fashion market is mainly reflected in the digitization of brands.The expansion of e-commerce is therefore becoming increasingly important in both the B2C and B2B sectors. Online trade has developed very well for us over the last ten years, has recorded constant growth and has established itself as an important pillar of our company. For 20 years Otto has been one of our largest trading partners. In March 2018, we launched the Zalando Marketplace, which has become one of our top-selling online distribution channels. We further expanded this digital presence with the connection to About You in the summer of 2019, enabling us to reach a new target group and place our products even more precisely. We intend to expand these channels further in the coming years.
Twenty-five years ago the phrase “social media” did not even exist. Today it is unimaginable to imagine life without it. How important are social media activities for Cross Jeans and where do you see it heading?
Social media is also a big and important topic for Cross Jeans. In today's digital world, social media activities are just as important for brands as classic advertising media. Social media enables brands to address new, younger target groups and create brand awareness there. We are constantly expanding the familiar channels in connection with our online store. Via our Facebook page we already register many active buyers in our online store. With regard to Instagram, we are starting the coming year with a new strategy and want to develop further target groups for us.
Since summer 2018, we have been inviting people to a get-together twice a year at Soho House Berlin to kick off the Berlin Fashion Week. In the meantime, our Fashion Brunch has developed into an established event within the Fashion Week. Numerous celebrities and influencers have been among our guests since the beginning. Since the beginning of 2019, we have also been increasingly focusing on cooperations with bloggers and influencers. Over the years, we have already developed a number of brand lovers with whom we work together on an ongoing basis and will continue to do so in the future. One highlight was certainly our first design collaboration in summer 2019 with the Hamburg artist Paul Schrader, who created an exclusive design for one of our denim jackets as part of our collaboration. In the coming year we will continue to expand our existing partnerships and implement targeted campaign shootings with digital brand ambassadors.
We actually wanted to celebrate a big anniversary party this year and thank our longstanding partners in particular. However, the pandemic has caused us to shift our focus for this year. Currently it is simply not the right time to celebrate. At the moment, we are all called upon to help and to steer the market back into a more orderly direction. But we will definitely catch up on the celebrations and thank our partners in 2021, also especially for the cooperation in this challenging year, and hope that the situation will have eased by then.
What is the future of denim production in terms of sourcing/supply chain?
It will continue to be increasingly important to keep supply chains as short as possible in order to react as quickly and flexibly as possible to market developments. Production sites close to Europe will increasingly come into focus to avoid situation-related supply bottlenecks from non-European countries.
Last but not least: What are the major trend themes in the denim sector for 2021?
Sustainability is and remains a major issue–consumers want to know where their products come from and what the supply chains look like. The background of a product is therefore becoming much more important than it was 20 years ago.
Up to now, sustainability has mostly been understood in terms of production. We at Cross Jeans have been able to reduce the use of natural gas by 65%, electricity by 39% and water by 34% in the production of a denim product over the last 10 years. The main thing now is to make the product itself even more sustainable. This means developing new materials, fibers and technologies that close the sustainable production cycle, so to speak. Recycled denim fabrics, for example, play a major role here.
In terms of materials and fit, the comfort of a jeans is also becoming increasingly important–not least because of the past few months in which comfort has been given a whole new definition. Softer and more comfortable materials play just as much a role here as more casual silhouettes and fits. The classic skinny jeans will of course remain an all-time favorite as a basic, but the current portfolio will increasingly develop in the direction of straight and wider cuts.
In the end, it can be said in any case that denim, as a versatile trend material, has become a fundamental part of the textile market.