True Religion’s Renaissance - A Lesson in Brand Strategy

True Religion's shift in customer demographics is leading to a major revival of the brand.
February 25, 2024
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In a world where luxury often feels synonymous with exclusivity, True Religion is rewriting the narrative, beckoning a new era where fashion isn’t just for the elite—it’s for everyone.

In 2002, True Religion broke onto the fashion scene in Manhattan Beach, California.

Their jeans, retailing for $200 to $300, symbolized aspirational fashion for teenagers and young adults. Despite being more affordable than traditional designer labels, True Religion was associated with a sense of luxury and status.

The magnetic pull of the brand increased as consumers rushed to emulate the style of Hollywood A-listers like Jessica Alba, Jessica Simpson, and Megan Fox, who regularly rocked True Religion jeans.

However, by the early 2010s, True Religion had fallen out of favor. Denim was out, and athleisure was in.

In 2017 and 2020, True Religion filed for bankruptcy.

But now, with the help of Michael Buckley, the company’s former President who was appointed as CEO in 2019 following the bankruptcy proceedings, True Religion is experiencing a renaissance.

True Religion is going after a new customer base. True Religion’s primary customer now makes between $60K and $65K annually, a far stretch from their typical customer in the past, who made closer to $200K.

The strategy is working. In 2023, the company reported, per CNBC:

  • Sales increased 20% YoY to $280 million
  • EBITDA closed at $80 million
  • NPS was 10% higher than its competitor peer set, including brands like Nike and Ralph Lauren

Their new playbook includes diversification, accessibility, and leveraging retail partnerships.

True Religion failed to diversify when athleisure became a trend, but now they have active sets, including joggers, sweat shorts, and mesh.

True Religion dropped its price point on denim jeans from $200+ in the early 2000s to $100 - $200 to make its apparel more accessible to its new target customer demographic, which makes substantially less money.

True Religion is leveraging retail partnerships with brands like Urban Outfitters that share a similar customer demographic.

With the new momentum, Farmstead Capital Management, True Religion’s majority shareholder, is exploring a private sale of the company. In Jan. 2024, they hired Baird to run a sale process with intentions of selling to a consumer-focused private equity firm or a large publicly traded apparel company.

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