Reflections on 15 Years.
2018 marked another year in business for us at 3sixteen, and you’ve probably heard that it was our 15th anniversary. We're grateful to have spent the past year doing what we love to do best: making things we believe in, that we feel express who we are as a brand and individuals. While we usually like to let our creations speak for themselves, we thought we’d switch it up and talk a little about the journey we’ve been on - how we’ve approached it, and what’s helped us along the way.
The fact is, fifteen years is a long time. We don't say that from a position of discounting any other peoples’ experiences or to look down on anyone whose company hasn’t made it this far, but the fact that we’re still here and thriving after that length of time - it’s just not easy. Like all companies, we’ve had our share of ups and downs over the years, and through that time, we’ve continued to evolve and are still standing today. And for that, we are incredibly thankful. It’s something we try to remind ourselves of constantly: we have a really good thing going and it’s not something we ever want to take for granted.
At the same time, it hasn’t felt like a long time. On a day to day level, it’s hard to get any sort of sense of it because we’re in the thick of things and don’t really see that bigger picture all the time. We're trying to solve problems, push for the next thing that needs to happen, fulfill commitments and keep promises to our suppliers, partners, and customers. It may sound funny, but we don’t really have a good sense of how long it’s been or even what it’s felt like. And since it hasn’t felt that long, maybe that’s why we don’t often sit back and take time to reflect.
Fifteen years later, how do we measure time? Is it through life milestones, like meeting our wives or starting our families? Is it marked by products that have gained an appreciative following, like our core tees and signature jeans? Or is it via business milestones, like partnering with Self Edge and opening our Los Angeles flagship store? Truthfully, they’re all meaningful and sometimes it can be difficult to separate one from another.
As important as everything else is, though, it’s the products themselves that may best show why we do what we do. Even before we started making jeans ten years ago, we always tried to design with two values in mind: creating clothes that people would want to wear for a long time, and producing them to a standard that would allow them to physically hold up for years and years. We’ve found that often, it’s the thoughtfully simple designs that we reach for time and again in our own closets - the things that age well. Beyond that, we try not to make things for the sake of making things. When we think about designing something new, we always try and develop an approach or some sort of meaningful differentiation from what you can already find on the market.
These principles have guided us through the journey to where we are today, and gave us both the sense of purpose and tools to help navigate through the tough decisions we’ve had to make – from getting into the business making graphic tees that we felt had a more positive message than what was out there at the time; through fall 2008, when we pivoted away from tees and put our efforts into a full collection, which also featured our first pair of jeans; to our decision to scale back that collection in 2011 and focus on making as good a pair of jeans as we could make - the ancestors of the SL-100x and ST-100x that remain an important part of our core product line.
Each decision also gave us the opportunity to try something new, to learn along the way via those twists and turns that form the path to where we are today. Scaling back to jeans allowed us to really hone in, to learn how to become better designers. Since we didn’t have any formal education in fashion, we often learned the hard way. Having the opportunity to learn from people we met through Self Edge and see their product up close was vital to helping us grow.
We used all those lessons over the past seven years to rebuild our collection and introduce core items that we believe continue to stand the test of time - pieces that new people are still discovering and connecting with, from our tees, to our fleece, chinos, or Type III jackets. Just this year, there are pieces we introduced that we’d love to be able to keep in stock season after season, such as our selvedge fatigues and oxford shirts. But it only makes sense to keep making them if people want them. As our customers, you have a strong voice here too.
It’s a great feeling to know that so many of our designs and pieces over the past fifteen years still resonate - whether it’s the Cousins graphic that was received so warmly this year after a 10+ year absence, or the Stadium Jacket and Crosscut Flannel, whose initial designs debuted in our full collections a decade ago. This longevity means that we’re hitting our design goals and it means the world to us.
While we have so many people we’d like to thank, for now we’d like to single out a couple of people whose help has been instrumental over the years:
Freda and our factory in San Francisco have had a huge hand in the quality aspect of our brand and the reputation we’ve built. They make almost all of our products, including our jeans and chinos, our shirts, tees, and jackets. We are grateful for their craftsmanship, attention to detail, and work ethic.
Where would 3sixteen be without denim? Ono-san and Sarina have been instrumental in helping us develop and grow our denim program over the past 8 years with custom developed fabrics courtesy of Kuroki Mills. To us, the ability to offer an original fabric has been one of our major differentiating factors in the marketplace and has allowed us to offer a product that you, our loyal customers, can come back to year in and year out with knowledge that it'll stretch, shrink, fade and perform consistently no matter what. When the fabric stays constant, it allows us to tweak other parts of the garment to make it better without feeling like we are trying to hit a moving target.
Going back further, Nancy Mak stands out as having helped us really learn how to make clothes. Officially, her role with us was in production management - turning our ideas into garments and working with factories to make sure they finished on time and at the quality level we wanted. But she really took us under her wing and taught us much more than that.
We met Nancy at a time when we were figuring out how to make clothing from scratch - specifically, making custom fleece instead of printing on blanks. She introduced us to the mill in Canada we still use to this day, along with the factories in China that made our first full collection in fall 2008. She also steered us towards New York City’s Garment District so we could learn about the process of developing clothing from start to finish in-depth and firsthand, even though it would mean less paid work for her. We were also able to do a runway show at Vancouver Fashion Week one year through her connections.
What we remember most is that it always felt like she cared personally for us and our well-being. She passed away several years ago from cancer, and we can’t help but feel like she’d be really proud of how far we’ve come. We cannot thank her enough.
Finally, we couldn’t do we what we do today without what we sincerely believe to be the best team in the business: Brandon, Cam, Joe, Roland, Seth, Spence, Wes, as well as all those who have worked to move us forward in the past. Our growth over the past couple of years has been especially due to the strong team we have in place, a team that gives us the ability to focus on all these different things at once without losing stride. Whether it’s our relationships with retailers, sales, design, customer service, keeping the website up to date, or getting our products shipped to our customers - these are all crucial aspects of what we do, and because of our team, we can give each area the support it deserves.
From all of us, to all of you: thank you for fifteen years that we’ll never forget.
-Johan & Andrew