Thank you for letting us do what we love.

Published: March 08, 2024

Thank you for letting us do what we love. Recently my parents came over to visit and brought a big stack of jeans with them. That pile of denim turned out to be a pretty good representation of the last two decades of my life. In it was the first pair of women’s jeans I designed, all the way up to the first pair of the Gustin line we wear today. We’ve shared a lot about the company we’re trying to build, but we haven’t talked about the path to get here. I always smile when people assume we got our start on Kickstarter. Believe me, it would have been a lot easier if we had been an overnight success, but looking back, I wouldn’t have had it any other way.

It was always about the product for me

The world of denim started for me nine years ago. I was at UC Berkeley starting my first year of the MBA program and I still didn’t know what I wanted to do when I grew up. My brother turned me on to great denim when he convinced me to buy a pair of Paper Denim & Cloth jeans back when they were cool. Japanese denim, incredible shade, perfect fit. I lived in these pants - to me, they were a functional work of art. This is what I wanted to do. People at school thought I was insane. My most frequently unsolicited piece of advice was, “Hire an ex-Levi’s designer and they can do all the work for you and you can focus on the business.” This would have been the proper MBA thing to do, but for me it was always about the product. I wanted to learn how to design, to be on the factory floor, to touch the fabric, to own every little detail of my creation. I would figure out how to make the perfect pair of jeans myself.

No Pain No Gain

I knew absolutely nothing at the start, but I am stubborn. I started to make new friends. My first meeting ever was with the amazing Cone Mills rep in San Francisco. He was nice enough to point me to a sewing shop in San Francisco. They pointed me to a pattern maker. Experimentation began. I bit off more than I could chew with a women’s line and tried to do some of the most complicated washes out there. I took my lumps but learned a lot about fits and misfits, construction, materials and doing production the right way. I made every mistake in the book, invented a few new ones, but loved every minute of it. These were the years when I actually thought driving 300 pairs of jeans around in a rental car was a reasonable idea. Meanwhile, I was still working a day job, now the proud owner of student loans.

Small Turning Point

Things started to come together a bit when I stopped designing for others and simply made what I wanted to wear. This led to our first men’s line. It was a trouser fit using organic Japanese denim. Some styles were raw; others I dry processed by hand myself. I literally hand sanded denim on my parents’ deck until I sneezed blue. I showed my product to boutiques in San Francisco. Whatever they thought of me, they sensed I wasn’t out to make a quick buck and that I really cared about the product. This was the first design to sit on store shelves next to the best brands in the industry. The second men’s denim line is the Gustin line you wear today. Made in San Francisco, it used denim from Kuroki and Kaihara. It was born in 2010 and on boutique shelves for a number of years before we changed things. This was the line I was finally proud enough of to put my name on. It was cool to see my brand sitting right next to others I used to wear. Even then, denim was more of a labor of love than a job.

Experience, Timing, Good People

You probably know more about the recent past of Gustin. Stephen and I met in 2011 and things just clicked. We both shared a love of the product and a desire to change the traditional retail model. There’s nothing like all-nighters together while working a day job to forge a strong bond. This has been a long time coming for me, and I still love it as much as when I created my first pair of jeans in 2005. To me Gustin is still not a “company.” It just feels like it’s part of who I am, who Stephen is, and who our entire team is. Most of all, I am grateful to each of you, our loyal customers, for making this all happen. Thank you for your support.

Josh Gustin
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