It was 1973. Jeans wear entrepreneur Shantilal Parmar spotted Nitin Shah, who worked for a petrol station, and made him a commissioned agent selling jeans. From that moment, Nitin learned all about the ropes of the jeans wear business, from washes, fabrics, and stitching.
After this, Nitin envisioned a denim empire and commissioned the help of his brothers Arun and Milan Shah. The Kenya-born brothers decided to set up shop: Sholemay Ltd, Pepe Jeans. The brothers thought that naming it “Pepe” was a short, cute name which was easy to write (and remember).
The brothers sold their goods at a road side stall along Portobello Road Market in West London, which they rented and ran every Saturday, despite having full-time jobs at hand. As the business started to flourish, the company of Shantilal Parmar, Nitin Shah’s former employer, created jeans for the brothers which they sold at their stall.
By 1975, the brothers already had four denim stalls in London. One of the stalls was stationed at Kensington Market, which was the selling place of many denim sellers who found success in the jean biz. With the expansion of their business, the brothers opened a Pepe Jeans boutique at Kings Road, London. After that, they opened another boutique at Carnaby Street and a 25,000-feet office and warehouse at the Avonmore Trading Estate.
Through the 1980’s, the denim company became the center of attention of Europe’s denim-toting audience, and was consequently heralded as one of Europe’s best clothing lines. It trounced all big American denim brands, to everyone’s surprise, and received international acclaim when it was launched in India in 1989.
Now, Pepe Jeans is estimated to be worth billions of dollars. The company manufactures shirts, pants, shorts, jerseys, and skirts for men, women, and kids. Pepe jeans shirts, which come in colors of yellow, lime, pink, green, and red, are renowned for its colored checks, highlighted stripes, and hand-embroidered embellishments.
They are very popular for their sundry collections, which includes the Utilitarian line. This collection is famous for its fashionable and chic garments with a military twist. It is composed of apparels in shades of khaki, green, tan, olive, and gray.
Pepe Jeans also works with the Andy Warhol collection, which aims to bring together the vibrant iconography of Warhol’s enduring effort with the legacy of one of Europe’s well-loved denim lines. The Andy Warhol collection eagerly welcomes the artist’s modish sense of design and features memorable images created by the artist across a variety of men’s and women’s clothing and accessories.
Their worldwide grasp is in stark contrast with their manufacturing process, which is done from start to finish by only the company itself. They employ the Styleman process, which is a unique solution for apparel and footwear design.
The denim-making process includes Carding, which is a method of blending cotton and turning it into fiber webs. The yarn is made stronger by spinning it. Pepe jeans used mostly indigo and sulphur dyes. They also perform the beaming, weaving and finishing processes which ensure that their jeans are of excellent quality when they are exported to over 80 countries around the world.
Pepe Jeans’ Campaigns
As for advertisement, photographer Bruce Weber was commissioned for Pepe Jeans’ first big ad. He shot then-unknown Bridget Hall, who would subsequently be one of world’s most famous supermodels. Other muses who modeled for Weber include Ione Skye, Donovan Leitch, and 90210 cutie Jason Priestly.
After print ads, Pepe Jeans paved the way for TV and Cinema Commercials which featured Leigh Bowery, among many others. In 1987 and 1988, T’Pau’s ‘Heart and Soul’ and The Smiths’ ‘How Soon Is Now?’ became Pepe Jeans’ anthems in their advertisements, despite the critics’ bans for its “raunchy” themes.
And after 35 years in the industry, Pepe jeans continues to work with non-conformist photographers, directors and talents who shot to stardom like the denim brand did.
Famous Pepe Jeans endorsers include actor Ashton Kutcher, actress Sienna Miller, models Kate Moss, Daria Werbowy, and Natalia Vodianova; footballers Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal), and Fernando Torres (Spain); and Spanish Formula One Racing Driver Fernando Alonso.
Outside its successful clothing line and equally-successful campaign ads (most catapulted then-unknown models to fame), Pepe Jeans hosts art exhibitions of local and international artists at its birthplace – Portobello Road, London.