Christopher Murphy · 13 August, 2020
Hiut Denim was established in Cardigan, Wales, by David and Clare Hieatt in 2011. A denim business, it creates beautifully designed jeans in an environmentally friendly manner. The business is focused around the story of its product, a story it tells well.
I'm currently expanding this into a fully-researched case study, but the content below – from my book ‘Start!’ – is the backbone of the case study.
Hiut emerged from Howies (and there’s a lot to be learned from both). I have an early Howies catalogue that I'll be transcribing some content from. I'll also be referencing – and perhaps photographing? – some of Hiut's publications. These books, beautifully produced encapsulate Hiut's mission: Do one thing well.
Your ideas need you to stop doing stuff that doesn’t matter. They need you to risk everything for them.
An ideas business that just happens to manufacture beautifully tailored jeans, Hiut Denim’s focus is, as its co-founder David Hieatt puts it, to ‘Do one thing well.’
Hieatt has a considerable pedigree in the clothing industry. In 1995, he and his wife Clare established Howies, an active clothing business. The rapid growth of that business, however, took a toll on the brand’s finances, leading the couple to sell it to Timberland in 2006.
Three years later – after a clash with the Timberland hierarchy over Howies’ values – the couple moved on. Howies still summarizes its mission as follows:
Howies is an active clothing company that believes in making higher quality, lower impact products for our sports and day-to-day lives.
Unsurprisingly, there’s a great deal of Howies DNA in Hiut Denim. If anything, this DNA has been further distilled to its very essence.
Hieatt is ruthlessly focused on Hiut Denim’s core mission and, helpfully, he has shared some of the lessons he’s learned in an excellent book on the importance of building purpose-driven brands. Do Purpose is a manifesto for a new (old) kind of business built around its core values, published by the Do Book Company (another of Hieatt’s ventures).
Talk to Hieatt and his passion shines through. He sees Hiut Denim as an enabler, helping to reignite an industry – jeans manufacture – in his native Cardigan, a mission he is completely focused on. As he asserts, ‘Our town is making jeans again.’
Hieatt’s focus is clear, Hiut Denim produces beautifully tailored jeans, and... that’s about it. Hieatt believes in the importance of doing one thing well and in Hiut Denim it shows. His single-minded drive has turned a town around, rescuing three decades of tailoring knowl- edge that was in danger of dying out.
Hiut Denim’s mission is even shorter than Howies’:
Do one thing well.
That’s it. But these four words crystallize the philosophy that underpins the business. Expanding on this vision, the business has a ‘user manual’ that Hieatt wrote to explain to shareholders why the business was established. Running to twenty-three items, it starts with ‘Watch every penny’ and finishes with ‘Don’t be average.’ It’s a document that makes you wish every business had a user manual.
The importance of stories permeates the Hiut Denim website. The jeans are made of denim, yes, but the business tells the story behind that denim, stressing the importance of materials with a particular emphasis on its provenance. You can buy Hiut jeans in a variety of types of denim, including organic, ‘from a great mill in Turkey’, and selvedge, ‘from Kuroki, the artisanal Japanese denim mill.’
It’s hard to manufacture this kind of attention to the story – it comes from deep inside you – and there’s a very real sense that Hiut Denim is a manifestation of Hieatt’s philosophies.
Such attention to detail cascades down into the business’s touchpoints. Unlike other businesses’ mass-produced efforts, Hiut’s gift cards are lovingly designed and painstakingly printed, bearing the motto, ‘Cut once’ (echoing the old tailor’s maxim, ‘Measure twice, cut once’).
The business also has a number of clubs designed to build a sense of community around its products, including the No Wash Club, ‘a small, elite club [...] only for those who go 6 months without washing their jeans’; and the Denim Breaker Club, currently ‘in beta’, designed as an experiment to create and sell preowned broken-in jeans.
These details are just the tip of a very large conceptual iceberg, that includes: partnering with HistoryTag to allow owners to track the history of a pair of jeans; conjuring up imaginative innovations like the FaceTime Tailor, an idea soon to launch that allows you to talk to a tailor via FaceTime; and embracing the idea of make do and mend, offering jeans repair free of charge.
These are ideas born of purpose and passion.
Hiut's attention to detail radiates out from the business's touchpoints. Every little thing has been considered. In this section, I'll explore a handful:
- a tiny care label, that most businesses would overlook or cut corners on;
- a short email to let you know your jeans are on their way; and
- a series of year books that serve to celebrate the business and its values.
Attached to your Hiut jeans, there’s a small, unassuming label marked ‘Care’. Inside the card, there are washing instructions as follows (emphasis in red, mine). Hiut Denim feel so strongly about abstinence that they have a ‘No Wash Club’ (of which I am a proud member).
Abstain. Abstain. Abstain.
The longer you can go without washing your jeans, the better they will look. Six months without washing will give you great looking jeans. When the time comes to wash, a cold hand wash is best. A machine wash on a cold setting will work too.
No bleach. Wash separately. Line dry. Colour is likely to transfer when wearing. But think of it this way: it’s a sign of quality.InNo bleach. Wash separately. Line dry. Colour is likely to transfer when wearing. But think of it this way: it’s a sign of quality.
Innovate or follow.
A Dispatch Email
Most businesses would use 'automated' language here. The jeans are dispatched and a cog in a machine somewhere triggers and automatic email. Not Hiut. This short email, just a handful of sentences, paints a picture:
Your jeans are on the way to you. But their real journey starts when you put them on….
Picking up on this idea of 'a history you create', Hiut included a HistoryTag in every pair of jeans, allowing you to track the story of your jeans via Instagram.
Start! Case Study
This is the case study from ‘Start!’.