Start Your Own F*cking Brand
Start Your Own F*cking Brand
Start Your Own F*cking Brand,
a book written by Maria Erixon
Book essay written by Timur Kahlun and Tao Daniel
Various are the success stories in the business field and most of them are great examples for any young entrepreneurs who aspire to start their company and be part of those well accomplished companies. One of those stories is about Maria Erixon who founded the very successful premium denim label Nudie Jeans in 2001 in Gothenburg, Sweden. Almost 20 years later, Erixon wrote a book about everything that was done within Nudie Jeans since the beginning, sharing her own experience and reflexion for anyone who would seek inspiration for their own business. “Start Your Own F*cking Business” cover the whole story, from the first batch of jeans promptly put together by hand to still operating her privately owned, globally successful brand with strong sustainable values. This is the behind-the-scene story of the success story of Nudie Jeans, straight from people who lived it.
Even though the tale revolves around denims, it is not required to have any kind of interest nor passion for the famous trousers to enjoy this book. At the core of the writing lies a story about creativity, intuition, success and failure, managing growth, independence, decision making and staying focused. Nudie’s story is not automatically a model that every company can follow, but it’s a story worth reading.
Start Your Own F*cking Brand share the rock’n’roll spirit of nudie Jeans as the title suggests in the raw and honest writing of Erixon. The name ‘nudie’ came from the tag line ‘The naked truth about denim’ which ultimately became the mission statement of the brand.
Erixon’s used her prior experience in design from her work in Lee Jeans Europe in Belgium to build the brand, that previous experience was the pillar of the company for the first years of operations. From the very beginning, Nudie Jeans had a philosophy, a very strong intention to operate ethically and build healthy and mutually supportive relationships with its supplier and partners. Erixon share that one of the strong cores of that process was personal visits, wherever the factory of office would be located. Nowadays, Nudie Jeans still openly lists all its factories where every product is made, its location and the number of employees there. This help to build transparency and show the ethical operations of the company to the public.
“At the time, we were almost the only company building a brand based tangibly on values. When we started Nudie Jeans in 2001, we decided that environmental awareness and human rights would permeate everything we did. The world has largely caught up in 2019 and as we’ve grown, opportunities have opened up to us to be able to contribute to the journey. We’re trying to make good use of the chance,” writes Maria Erixon in the book.
The company emerged from a true, deep love about denim from its owners. Nudie used inspiration from the finest denim available in Italy and Japan. “After years of Sweden being denied access to ‘proper’ Levi’s jeans due to post-war import restrictions” – Erixon felt the need to compensate her love for the denim by bringing the denim herself to Sweden, adding to it all the little touches that she cherish and wanted to implement in the product. There was no greater ambition nor long-term financial projections than the need for Nudie to make top of the art jeans that has the kind of qualities she felt the other big denim brands were lacking.
A lot of the characteristics and elements of Nudie Jeans happened quite on their own without too much investigation or market research, Erixon and her team describes that the creation of the logo and other design related things happened because they had to hurry and make the products ready to be sold. In the book, she says that even everything was done in a hassle, not limited to the design, everyone was ready to give it their all and were very passionate about the company, but even more passionate about denim.
The entire company started in a way, that friends were hanging out in the Nudie Jeans primitive office and fell into their roles naturally, instead of going through a process of recruitment and interviews. Erixon describes that this was a huge advantage in the company’s early stages, since everyone pitched in whenever needed and there was trust built among the workers. This resulted in minimal planning of the business administration side, but it came to play a part later on.
Nudie Jeans did everything on their own, including photoshoots and marketing. Erixon had a friend of a friend, who was good with the camera and shot their friends wearing the Nudie Jeans products. This resulted in positive reaction from the market and many marketing companies contacted Nudie to try and take over the marketing, but the company refused because they had believed in their product and were willing to put trust in their own marketing.
For the reader it was interesting to see a CEO of such a successful company to nostalgically look back to the early stages of a fresh company, especially the friendship between the employees who were more than just employees, they were friends. She tells in the book that being friends with the employees was sometimes counterproductive and there were times when shipments were delayed or the manufacturing of the jeans was incorrect, but their customers loved the product so much, that they let it slide and expected a better quality of service in the next shipment. This was a great learning opportunity for the company and it really helped them in the business administration aspect of the company. These experiences helped the staff to realize that the company cannot operate in the child-like mentality they were doing and had to take more responsibility with the business side of the company. According to Erixon “you have to take care if the boring stuff, just as much as you enjoy the fun stuff. Otherwise, the business as whole suffer.”
The laid-back mentality of the company and its employees was a challenge when they had to focus on finance and other business-related issues, because according to Erixon, it cannot be laid back and the mentality needs to change from the past for the “boring stuff”. This explains really well the current situation and mentality of Nudie Jeans, since they have been able to keep some of the attitude that they started with but were able to implement a more serious side to their operations. They took a right turn early enough in the company and were able to keep their success going, instead of being profitable for a few years, and then suffering from backlash due neglect and immaturity.
The thing that made Nudie Jeans successful, was that they believed, and still do, in their own product and refused a lot of outside consultation, which they were not happy to implement. They wanted to create products for their customers, not for the imaginary consumer that marketing-and other companies had in mind. Third parties, like suppliers and resellers heavily wanted Nudie Jeans to expand rapidly and invest more in the exporting but the company kept its head. The people working in the company were so sure about their own products and the company, that they refused to be bought out by the very companies that inspired to start their business in the first place.
The success of Nudie Jeans is undeniable, and it shows that starting a business without worrying and planning too much can be highly profitable. Today Nudie Jeans is globally recognized to be one of the top brands in their market, with annual sales of over 35m euros. In life everything changes with time, and businesses are not invulnerable to these changes. Erixon tells, that she and the people around her have changed and it’s not all for the best. She reminisces past times nostalgically and with melancholically undertone and honestly speaks about her feelings and emotions, going through these changes. She explains that even small shifts in time, can be seen as changes in the business world, and the person you worked with 5 years ago can be very different today. She acknowledges the generational differences or millennials and her own generation and the challenges that the younger people might encounter. The book doesn’t offer any tricks to overcome difficulties but advises the reader to “draw your own conclusions or take inspiration as you find it”.
During the years, the company has evolved, much like their jeans that they produce. Denim jeans are made to be worn again and again and they get better with more use, as has their Swedish producer. Erixon knows that the company is now in a position, where her presence is not needed, and she says that she is fine with that. Book in itself is a good read and the reader gains confidence in starting their own business, even if they didn’t think of it beforehand. The book offers new points of view for a reader who is looking to establish their own company or just a person who wants to learn more from the subject. Starting your own f*cking brand just got a lot easier.
-Start Your Own F*cking Brand, by Maria Erixon (2019)