Western & English Today


W&E Today provides retailers and manufacturers with education and ideas that provoke innovation in the Western and English markets.

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The Source 2018 45 Western & English Today: You've had a hand in multiple product launches. What do you feel is the key to successful brands? Brenda Van Newkirk: e saying that tim- ing is everything, that really does seem to be very true. I also think it's knowing your niche and just who is your end consumer that you're trying to reach, so that you do make a statement as to what you're trying to accomplish. Such as in the Western lifestyle, most of the gals and guys really demand functional and stylish apparel. Since West- ern products are tailored for the Western lifestyle athlete, many times, they need to perform for the function. In clothing: such as having shirt sleeves and pant lengths that are longer, tails that stay tucked in and denim that will hold up through the abuse it's go- ing to have for the use of the product. If it's boots … comfort, durability, and value of the product is important. W&E: Can you tell us about some of your early experiences of developing well- received products? Van Newkirk: In 1986, I was hired by the Rocky Mountain Clothing Company out of Denver, Colorado, as a sales rep and the fi rst Rocky Mountain ladies' blouse designer, and I also did photography of the Rocky Moun- tain jeans on a lot of the Western-lifestyle girls so that our sales people could sell them to the stores much easier. If pictured, the buyer saw how great [the jeans] looked on. en in 1996, due to the fact that we made ladies' jeans really well, I was in collabora- tion with three other key employees, and we launched and started the design of the Cinch brand, through our ideas and what we were seeing in the marketplace that the younger rodeo and horsemen were defi nitely needing a great fi tting jean, as the Rocky Mountains were for gals. I was involved in my career of roping and rodeo, and I knew a lot of the key athletes in the horse show world, as well as the rodeo world. So, I was able to acquire many of our fi rst endorsees for the Cinch product, which was a big part of the suc- cess of Cinch becoming so popular so quick, other than [that], they fi t and looked great. And within a year, we started the Cruel Girl [label] for the girl that wanted to have a great fi tting Western jean brand. W&E: What do you see as being the biggest changes on the horizon for the denim in- dustry today? Van Newkirk: Denim is here to stay! I think denim is across the board. You see all diff er- ent shades, weights and fi nishes in denim overall. Dark to light, distressed with holes, to very clean jeans. I think it's just a real bal- ance, but the main thing is having great fi t in quality denim. Overall, I am seeing cleaning up and raising up! Yep, waistlines for gals — higher, showcasing great fi t and, in many cases, less hardware and ornamentation than perhaps in the last few years, lending itself many times to fun embroideries and screen- printing novelty. W&E: And what about trends for the West- ern apparel industry beyond denim? Van Newkirk: I'm now with Justin Brands, and I think whether it's footwear or clothing, new processes of manufacturing are exciting. People are going to be seeing a great deal of change in tried and true products. We're ex- cited. I think we're constantly trying to make things more functional and comfortable and yet really fi t into what use [consumers] have for the boot, whether it's dancing on Saturday night, going out to work cattle, or whatever. Just a lot of changes, but it's a lot of techni- cal changes in how [footwear is] constructed and the processes in making the boots. One of the latest things we're pumped about at Justin is the launch of the Reba by Justin collection. Reba McIntire has come on board to work with our designers, and we have a limited re- lease of 'Reba by Justin'; that's very cool. People love Reba, and she loves the Western lifestyle. It's such a perfect match with Justin Brands. W&E: What are the benefi ts and qualities that set the Western fashion industry apart in your experience? Van Newkirk: I think the Western industry has always been known to [involve] that per- son that a handshake goes a long way [with]. I think that relationships, at the end of the day, are key. And I think it works both ways. e people who are involved in this industry appreciate the honor and core values of this Western culture, and I think it's very unique. It's very special. It's very Americana, and there's just no other industry like the West- ern industry, whether you're an active par- ticipant or whether you're in the business of being a wholesaler or a retailer. Favorite pair of boots: "My newest favorite boots are the Hope [from the Reba by Justin collection]." Favorite jeans: "I like a real clean jean. Great denim and a great fi t is the main thing." Favorite non-Western label: "Tesla. I really admire that brand." Go-to accessory: "I own a hundred diff erent belts and purses, and I think all of us that live this lifestyle and culture really enjoy great accessories, our turquoise and sterling silver, and our fringe. I think accessories are just key to pulling it all together." Noteworthy new trends: "Vintage demin is very hot, especially Levi's. Also velvet and so fabrics in jean wear." One thing you can't live without: "It would have to be a great pair of comfortable boots, truly. I just have to have a great fi tting boot." Brenda Van Newkirk posing with the King of Country, George Strait, in the Tony Lama showroom at the Denver Merchandise Mart. Van Newkirk modeling for Rocky Mountain Jeans in the 1980s. PHOTOGRAPHY: CO U R T E S Y B R E N DA VA N N E W K I R K

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