Building a CMBD Heritage Good
Before we actually started our small brand, we had ideas on ideas as to how we could establish ourselves in the small business community. When the thoughts are far between and sometimes fleeting, it feels easy. When we were daydreaming, we didn’t have to put thought into research and development, refining product categories, and how we effectively tell the story and demonstrate the value of our collections over what you could get at the mall.
Despite those things being second nature to us at this point in the game, they have never felt easy in practice. As parents, we understand the gravity of bringing a child into the world and the responsibility and discipline it takes to raise them to be good citizens and participants in society. It’s a different scale when you’re talking about jeans and tees versus babies, but we’ve learned to approach our product development process with a similar mindset.
Once we landed on an apparel brand that hovers around the raw denim community and slow fashion movement, our initial product lines were intentional but isolated. A run of denim, a limited drop of jackets, a one-off heritage-adjacent accessory. Six years later, we’re still in the baby stages of seeing the brand grow into a full-spectrum lifestyle brand. How do you make it all connect? We laugh thinking about almost a decade ago when we daydreamed about how “easy” it would be to kick off a consumer-facing brand. It certainly is not that, but we’re having fun seeing the whole picture and the part it plays in our lives.
It all, as always, goes back to discipline. Knowing who we are and what we want to be, and when we can, knowing how to get there. When it comes to a heritage-quality product with a CMBD tag on it, the formula is pretty simple. The fit has to be right, the function is present, and it’s always in line with the greater mission.
Nailing the fit feels like the low hanging fruit in the cutting room - we’ve never underestimated the challenges of communicating our specifications and preferences with our manufacturing partners, but instead learned the dance over time as our style and brand demands have grown with us. Apparel and fashion are passions and hobbies for us. While our partners feel the same, it’s also a dense, technical and specialized language in which these artisans speak professionally. That being said, we have always felt that the first step in understanding the value proposition that comes with well-made goods and ethical consumption is establishing a deep respect for the process in which the goods are made.
When it comes to the actual fit of the garment, we’ve graduated over time from making the products that we want to make as consumers to leveraging our experience with the demands and tastes of the community we’ve built around the brand. Bigger range of sizes, tweaks to the silhouettes we’ve trusted, and new line items altogether. Obviously, this comes with time. Obviously, the products we invest in have our signature on them. This was a part of the process we are surprised didn’t hit us harder over the head as we learned it slowly. Perhaps that’s just how it works. The bottom line for a new product is to communicate effectively to create something comfortable, resilient, and functional, and ensuring that the fit reflects those tenets.
The original ethos for CMBD circled the idea of “denim for the traveling professional”. While we have evolved with time and branched into other functionalities too, a well-built, reliable, and high-quality array of staples and statement pieces is still at the core of our mission as makers. That’s the bottom line for product development on this front, too, and that’s where our initial presence has never faded away. We believe that if something is built to sustain an on-the-go lifestyle, it can survive any lifestyle. This is true for people, as well.
How do you ensure quality control across the board there? The first step is materials. The second step is quality manufacturing partners. The third step is putting the garment through a true lifestyle test. Rarely does a piece hit our site without a three-or-four day trip under its belt. Nothing proves better!
Ensuring a quality fit and a reliable functionality are hard skills that you develop over time, and are technicalities we continue to learn and improve upon as the brand gets older and weathered by experience. Ensuring that our products are in line with our brand mission and ethos is a different kind of challenge. Personally, we believe that big-box brands have the luxury of not competing in that mindset due to the loyalty they’ve built around convenience. That’s never where we’ve wanted to land, and have been grateful for the strong convictions that guide our sails.
The challenge lately has been defining and redefining what it means to be a “heritage” brand and have “heritage” goods. The longer we’ve been a part of the heritage community, the murkier the water has become around what that word means to us.
Heritage is about longevity. Handing down from generation to generation. Giving a little more at the onset to receive more over a longer period of time. At its simplest, quality. For us, we want to invest in that quality domestically, keeping with American made goods, and sustainably, ensuring that our process and similar processes can continue on using as few resources as possible. Seemingly the last step here, but the most important in our eyes.
As we said - like all things, it’s about discipline. It’s about trial and error, too. And it’s about consistency. And balance. Looking back at the early days, we couldn’t have known what a challenge we had ahead of us. We wouldn’t have it any other way!