These Jeans Tell a Story

I may be crazy, but I’m not the one who quit my job on Wednesday and started an apparel company on Friday.

That distinction goes to Matt and Amanda Kimes, co-founders of Kimes Ranch Jeans, a fast-growing Western apparel company based in Scottsdale, Arizona. Not only did they take this rookie leap into the cutthroat garment industry, they did so in the throes of the 2008-2009 recession, whilst motor-home living with their two dogs in a Malibu, California RV park.

Kimes LogoBecome a Remuda Reader and you’re automatically entered to win a pair of Kimes Ranch Jeans and Ariat boots. Read more.

“We had absolutely no experience in the industry,” recalled Amanda Kimes. “You could say we faked it, ‘til we made it.”

Seven years down the road, the Scottsdale, Arizona-based company (originally named Longhorn Jean Company or LJC) is eyeing a bigger slice of the jeans-market pie and enjoying its cachet as one of the only companies making their products in the United States. (Wrangler, Levi Strauss, and Cruel Girl, for instance, make virtually all their jeans abroad.)

And for this persnickety jeans wearer, Kimes is also one of the only companies making all-cotton jeans for women. [No spandex! Stay tuned for our review of the Kimes Ranch Francesca jean next week.]

Though they came from different careers – Amanda ran a wine distribution company and Matt was a financial broker. – both were well heeled in the horse world. Matt amassed several AQHA and NRHA titles and strongly considered horse training as matt-kimes-2a career. Amanda rode Quarter Horses at the national level as well.

Kimes’ culture, style, and design are undoubtedly ranch-influenced. The jeans are meant to be durable for barn and ranch work, comfortable in the saddle, yet stylish enough for hitting the town.

The couple, who married just prior to launching Kimes Ranch, have imbued the company image with no-fuss Cowboy Chic. It’s not without a bit of whimsy, though: jean styles are named after animals on their Arizona ranch, including Barney, the longhorn steer responsible for the distinctive pocket detail.

Customer feedback drives design decisions, said Amanda Kimes:

When women complained about the zipper keep, Kimes switched hardware and put a sturdier men’s keep in women’s jeans.

The thread color combination of “cha-cha” orange and light teal on the Francesca jeans was selected as fans’ favorite on social media.

“We take all of the reviews very seriously,” said Kimes, who noted that sales have increased five-fold over the last three years.

Now, the jeans are produced in orders of the tens of thousands. That’s a far cry from the couple’s initial batch of about 300 pairs.

nI1EPwurU4-89dBVquG2PD4ItRzzQFm6IBUGts7nq9QMatt Kimes remembered that time, seven years ago, when after several months of frenetic meetings with designers, cutters, pattern makers, and other production line entities, they introduced their product to the masses, through horse world networks, friends, family, and trade shows.

Back then, “our family asked, ‘what are you guys doing?’ We took it to the world and literally nobody cared,” he said.

But if the couple had to pick one word that’s summed up their strategy, they’d both pick “perseverance.”

One hundred and forty-three years ago, Levi Strauss was a man, not a brand. That’s the Kimes’ dream, too: to leave a legacy.

“As a horse trainer or financial broker, you’re only as good as (the success of) your next client,” said Matt Kimes. “We want to build a brand that would eventually reach beyond our story.”

Become a Remuda Reader and you’re automatically entered to win a pair of Kimes Ranch Jeans and Ariat boots. Read more.