Inaugurated in 1973 on the streets of Portobello in London, the Pepe Jeans Group has grown to become a house of brands with a global presence. Here, RLI sits down with Marcella Wartenbergh, CEO of the company to discuss how it has grown in its almost 50 years of operation and what comes next.

Adenim pioneer, the Pepe Jeans Group has consistently reinvented the definition of denim to keep up with trends in the industry. An iconic brand that is synonymously associated with denim and limitless creativity, Pepe Jeans London gives its customers the foundation to exude style and substance.

“We have grown to become more than just the brand Pepe Jeans,” says company CEO Marcella Wartenbergh. “We are now a multi-brand business having acquired Hackett some years ago before more recently acquiring Façonnable, and in total we operate around 200 stores across the world.” The majority of these stores are in Europe, but the Group has a presence in other continents. Hackett has stores in Japan, whilst Pepe Jeans and Hackett have stores in the Middle East and Pepe Jeans also operates in Latin America. Wartenbergh explains that whilst each brand has a different geography, the business has an almost global presence.

It has been a busy time not only for the Group in the last year, but also for Wartenbergh who only joined the company around six months ago. “The main purpose when I joined was to reset – to understand that we are in a moment of hybrid consumers who can opt for both premium and budget options and this makes you rethink where you are going in the years to come.” So in the coming months, the aim is to stabilise its presence and decide where to consolidate and where to expand. Recent stores to open include an incredible Hackett store on Saville Row in London to provide a completely different experience and a bespoke offering to customers. This particular store is not about digitalisation, it is more about the craftsmanship that the product needs and is very consumer orientated.

On the other hand, a new site for Pepe Jeans was opened in Spain and it is totally the opposite. It is an integrated store and is very much for the millennials. It incorporates charging stations and e-commerce is also available, so if the product is not in store, guests can instead simply click-and-collect, so the customer receives an omni-channel experience in-store. In terms of new markets, a target sector is Southern Europe, whilst the Middle East is the key territory moving forward for the Group and they are looking into the consumer profile, the consumer habits and the pricing structure for that market.

So how does the business go about developing new products and initiatives to maintain its market position? “Firstly it is about digitalisation and data, reading the data in the right way to understand what is not selling, what is selling and what the consumer is trending towards. Then we do certain things for each brand and develop products from a consumer profile, making sure that it is inclusive and diverse. When we move forward with products and lines we never forget the consumer and the consumer that has been loyal to us.”

When talking about social media and its place within the Pepe Jeans Group, Wartenbergh says that it is massively important, because in today’s world a vast majority of people’s decisions are digitally influenced. For example, when going to a restaurant, people will have already looked at online reviews, the menu, other restaurants in the area and the drive time. So while there hasn’t been a set social media strategy for either Façonnable or Hackett, in the last few months they have created and hired its first digital team. “So when I talk about social media, I’d say that it is one of my top two priorities. For Pepe Jeans – it is my first priority,” says Wartenbergh. The transformation of the company is the main reason why it stands out from its peers in the market, along with its ability to adapt, be flexible and continuing to be inventive according to the CEO. She believes that the business makes things at a certain cost price that is relevant for the consumer and that this is highly important.

“The philosophy of each division within the Pepe Jeans Group is to create brand equity by transformation and the only way to achieve this is to be in a constant state of transformation,” explains Wartenbergh. “Companies need to adapt now, and one of the biggest challenges is to maintain the best talent that is currently within the company. I feel transparency is another big challenge, and that in the next ten years everything will be transparent. Finally speed is massively important; we live in a world of now. Looking forward, we have an exciting time ahead in the retail industry and I’m very much looking forward to it,” she concludes.