Distilling the Business of Denim – DSTLD Los Angeles

Angelenos love their denim – and with good reason: we are experts (humble brag intended).

Indisputably the denim capital of the world, Los Angeles boasts a myriad of brands, styles, cuts and washes to suit every denim-clad sartorial style. Meet DSTLD – a new player in Los Angeles’s dungaree scene that has everyone buzzing with their innovative business model, not to mention reasonable price point.

The DSTLD philosophy is simple – “distill” the business of denim, cut out the middlemen and sell direct to consumers, thus keeping the material and production quality high and the price point low. That’s right – this means premium denim you (and your wallet) will love, starting at just $65.

Another perk? DSTLD provides an at home try on service allowing shoppers to order up to three pairs of jeans to try on from the comfort of home. Simply keep the ones you like and send the others right back.

With the recent launch of the DSTLD Women’s collection, we had to catch founders Corey Epstein, Mark Lynn and designer Anh Vu to get the inside scoop on the art of affordable denim and the DSTLD model that has everyone talking…

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CULT: Tell us how DSTLD was born – what makes its business model, materials and brand ethos so unique?

Corey Epstein: Honestly – we found the denim business because we are in L.A, the denim capital of the world. With backgrounds in retail consulting and e-commerce, we questioned why premium denim cost so much, and set out to deliver a premium product at value.

Our solution was to “distill” the business of denim, remove the “impurities” and unnecessary middlemen to create a “pure” denim brand, direct to you.

Seventy-five percent of the designer jeans sold in the world are made in Los Angeles.  We source our materials and develop our washes and finishes in the same factories as all the other premium players, but since we don’t sell to third party retailers, we’re able to keep our price point very desirable – our denim starts at $65.

Mark Lynn: The name DSTLD (pronounced ‘distilled’) is a double entendre of sorts, a nod to both our design philosophy and business model.

To distill is to remove unnecessary elements so that only the essential remains. This applies to the modern, unembellished aesthetic of our label.

We also know that jeans are an intimate experience for women, which is why we’ve developed a home fitting program – clients can choose up to three pairs of jeans to audition in the comfort of their own home for up to 10 days, completely complimentary. Clients are only charged for they keep.


CULT: Why denim? What makes denim so unique, and what are some of your personal favorite denim pieces?

Mark Lynn: Denim is everyone’s go-to wardrobe essential, especially in LA, it’s pretty much the uniform.

Each pair of jeans wears in differently to tell a story, becoming completely unique to you.

Anh Vu: Today we have methods that can create an equally beautiful, inspired, and authentic jean… only more efficiently and cost-effectively. My current obsession is with fabric innovation and fit. In women’s denim for example, there are suddenly all of these evolved, super modern fabrics and techniques because of how skinny the preferred denim silhouette has gotten. Technology is addressing the need created for smarter stretch and better recovery. So we have all these intelligently engineered new materials, methods, and weights to work with. I love tweaking and testing things until I find the exact right formulation.

One of our personal favorite denim pieces is our High Rise in Powerstretch black – it’s engineered to lift your booty and slim your tummy. Coming soon is our jegging, which is 85% stretch with a 95% recovery rate. It’s ultra soft – you’ll want to live in them!

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CULT: Is designing a collaborative process? How long does it take to make a pair of jeans, from design inception to completion?

Anh Vu: Designing is an extremely collaborative process! Between working with Corey and Mark on the styles to come and executing the washes and finishes with the manufacturers, no detail goes overlooked. With DSTLD, it’s all about clean, effortless style – no excess. You won’t find anything meaningless, no crazy stitching for the sake of embellishment. Instead I focus on perfecting the art of simple and streamlined design. Carefully detailing the fit and stitching scheme for every garment – specifying the size and shape of every last stitch, from fly to pocket lines to hem. Selecting the exactly right fabric and wash to make a pair of jeans look and feel amazing.

 I’m a little obsessive about design. You have to be, though, with something as nuanced as denim.

For weeks I’ll mull over how the pocket shape changes with subtle angles and when the denim is stretched along curves.

Corey Epstein: From start to finish (design concept, execution, photographing, and placing on the site), it takes us about 4-12 weeks.  While we can respond to client’s demands much faster as an e-commerce brand, we’re not in the business of Fast Fashion – we’re opposed to that – we’re dedicated to exceptional quality jean you can wear everyday. We’re invested in crafting the highest quality jean and avoiding unnecessary costs without compromising quality. 


CULT: Denim is a closet staple of countless American wardrobes – What key qualities should one look for when committing to adding some new pieces?

Corey Epstein: DSTLD is committed to crafting thoroughly premium denim.  We do this by investing our time and money wisely on the important details like chainstitching, bartacking, busted side seams, YKK zippers, and custom washed hardware.

What we don’t waste our dollars on are sales reps, tradeshows, department stores and other expensive flourishes used by traditional premium denim brands.

You might say we are removing retail impurities and leaving behind the essential elements of denim: quality material, expert tailoring, and you.

Mark Lynn: DSTLD puts so much investment in the fit and make.  You can see and feel this by the quality of the fabric and how it includes stretch for fit (no sag) and comfort, the richness of the dyes and washes, the premium hardware and intricate stitching (especially on the cuffs).

Anh Vu: We design and craft our jeans using top-tier fabrics and the same mills as many of our competitors. With groundbreaking grading/tailoring systems for greater fit precision, as well as highly modern fabrics and design techniques, we create a premium denim line that’s in many ways superior to other premium brands. For women, we employ a dual-layer contoured waistband for a comfortable, figure-flattering close fit that eliminates the dreaded “butt gap” (guys: ask your girlfriends about this), a multi-point “bodymapping” system to ensure every size is cut to embrace and highlight the body, and ring-spun dual-flex yarns for super soft feel as well as superior stretch and recovery.

CULT: Anh – How many pairs of jeans do you own…be honest!

Anh Vu: I own about 200 pairs of jeans!

At this very moment my freezer is packed with coated and raw denim, as I’ve never washed a pair of raw jeans. Like any hardcore denimhead, I respect the past.

I love my vintage limited edition Levis; treasure my Japanese-born denim; as well as Swedish-crafted jeans. I stock my denim like wine! I do appreciate and admire the heritage of denim. But I also like to embrace modern times – what is relevant here and now.

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 Shop DSTLD here 


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