Brand: Hiut Denim
Founders: Clare and David Hieatt
Year founded: 2012
Mission: “Do one thing well”
“We want to get our town making jeans again.”
Have you ever heard of the small town of Cardigan?
Probably not. It’s a charming town on the far western edge of Wales. It’s located on the bay and 4,000 people call Cardigan home. It used to be Britain’s largest supplier of jeans. 10% of the town’s population used to make 35,000 jeans a week. This continued for almost four decades, until one dark day in 2001.
Cardigan’s denim factories closed in pursuit of profits oversees. 400 world craft jean makers were left with no craft, and no jobs. The town were in mourning, but little did they know they were about to get a second chance.
David Hieatt, along with his wife Clare, set up Hiut Denim, after selling their previous clothing brand Howies to Timberland. A move that they both say, in hindsight, was a mistake. They wanted to try again, this time just with denim, a second chance for them and for the people of Cardigan. They wanted to bring manufacturing back home. To use all that skill on their doorstep, and to breathe new life into the town.
Hiut jeans are not cheap, they are aimed at the denim nerd. People who will buy selvage denim jeans, go through six months of breaking them in, not washing them and popping them in the freezer occasionally to create the perfect pair. Hiut’s team of ‘grand masters’ only make 100 jeans a week, and they always sign their work.
Their storytelling lessons
Lesson #1 Stories put people above product
Hiut’s story is all about the people. OK, it’s also about a great pair of jeans, but it’s the people that make them great. It’s people that brought jeans back to Cardigan, it’s people that product world class craftsmanship, and it’s people that Hiut create their jeans for. People are at the core of everything Hiut do, and their story showcases this. The Hiut story completely sets them apart from their competitors.
Each pair of jeans wears differently, they take on some the of character and history of its owner. So Hiut owners may just be geeky enough to record bits of history and attach them to their jeans. That’s David’s dream, that a coder in San Francisco will pick up a pair of Hiuts in a second hand store and see the history of the product. What other jeans company has such a long term vision for their product?
Lesson #2 Stories travel for free
The digital age has completely transformed marketing, PR, and how we share content, but the traditional elements of storytelling remain the same. Now stories can be shared within an instant, and with little cost. When speaking about their story and content, David has said “stories travel for free and they travel fast.”
Social media has played a huge part in helping Hiut reach denim devotees in the hipster hotspots of London, New York and Tokyo. In its short life, the company has gained influential devotees from rock royalty and music heroes and to the likes of Ant and Dec. The TV presenters also gave an unexpected boost by tweeting their denim allegiance to their 3.2 million followers.
The plug was invaluable, David says, “Celebrities have an incredible power, and when your marketing budget is as big as your coffee budget it’s great because we couldn’t afford to reach those people by traditional means.”
Your stories should add meaning to the reader, don’t spoon feed them every line and action. Allow your audience and readers to take in what you’re saying/or selling and let them add their own meaning to it. Brands are at their best when people associate them with emotions and personal examples. For example the MasterCard ‘priceless’ advertisements, or even the Coca Cola ‘share a coke’ campaign.
Lesson #3 Do one thing well
Hiut’s motto, “Do one thing well,” gives them an advantage in the pursuit of being rare and remarkable. In a world where most brands try to be everything for everyone, Hiut believes in doing just one thing exceptionally well. “You are not just the things that you do, but the things you say no to. Saying no is focus. We only make jeans. We say no to anything else. Be narrow. Be good.”
Similar to Hiut focusing on quality denim, you too should focus on doing one thing well. Rather than losing sleep over how you are going to conquer Snapchat while still posting on LinkedIn and experimenting on Facebook Live, just do one thing well. Why not focus on your blog, create some killer content and then go from there. Like Hiut knows that denim geeks are their audience, find out your main audience and go where they hang out online.
There are so many lessons to be learned from Hiut, and we can’t wait to see what they have in store for us next.
Their Story Tools
1. A philosophical and passionate leader who knows the value of story
Both Clare and David Hieatt know the power of a story. They know that by telling a simple yet meaningful story they can grow and develop their business. They use simple storytelling techniques that engage with their audience. Their story is intertwined with their message and who they are. It makes it personal; you know they are passionate about what they do, so you are passionate about them.
2. A beautiful website
Hiut Denim has a simple, yet highly effectively website. It uses white space, black and white photography and white with a splash of red from their logo carried throughout. It manages to carry plenty of information, too much we think, but the simple design helps the website to carry it. You can see in the design that they obsess over the small details.
3. An email newsletter
David Hieatt believes in the marketing mantra that in order to succeed you need “1000 true fans”. They have a regular email newsletter that tells their story. He also believes that great businesses should have a philosophy and the newsletter has a nice balance of opinion and philosophical stories.
It includes factory news, product innovations, fashion tips and great photography. There are also offers of discounted product, but they are balanced.
4. A catalogue that is a work of art
The Hiut Denim catalogue is work of art, so much so that they are not afraid to value it. It’s not free, to own one you have to pay £10 for the pleasure. They call it their year book. It’s 144 pages and it’s full of amazing imagery, photography, poetery, essays and thought pieces. It celebrates the power of craftsmanship.
Here David explains the power of the yearbook for their story.
Hiut Denim have a vimeo page. Like everything else with their company and online personality it is of a high standard. Simple yet stylish videos, sometimes with no words give an insight into who Hiut Denim are, what they do and why they do it. Videos include discussions with the founders and behind the scenes look at the making of their yearbooks.