Industry Standard challenges pricey denim brands

Designer denim, made in America for a fair price? New Yorker Nicole Najafi is making it happen. She started her brand, Industry Standard, with a basic belief: you shouldn't have to pay $250 to get an awesome pair of jeans.

It all started a few years ago when Nicole got fed up with denim shopping and decided it was time to get rid of the things she hated about jeans. Not only were they too expensive, but she says, if you fell in love with a pair of jeans and went back six months later, they'd be gone. She also says jeans were tough to find online because most retailers were stocking jeans in-store.

Three years ago, Nicole quit her job running Balenciaga's online store to launch Industry Standard, a New York-based, direct-to-consumer site. They only carry seven styles because, Nicole says, the idea was to keep things simple and not overwhelm people. But she says, once you purchase one of those styles, it will always be there.

Nothing gets marked down or discontinued. The jeans start at $115. The black jean, the Simone high-rise, is so popular that it is completely sold out, with a waitlist of more than 100 people.

The brand is manufactured with Cone denim from North Carolina in a factory in Los Angeles. That's a tough thing for a small business to do. But Nicole approached Matt Berkson, the owner of one of the top factories in L.A. with a unique idea. She offered to give him a small stake in her company if he would manufacture jeans for Industry Standard at cost, with no minimum orders. Nicole says it's almost like owning her own factory even though she is a small business.

Now her jeans are getting a ton of press, and were even featured on the cover of Brooklyn magazine. Nicole was just named to the Forbes 30 Under 30 list, making a name for herself with a lean business model.

She started the company with $10,000 in savings and says she got the best advice from her dad, an entrepreneur himself, who said she should spend as little money as possible.

Nicole invested in great product and building a nice-looking brand, but didn't spend money on things like business cards or fancy office space. She focused her time and energy on the fit of the jeans, making sure Industry Standard didn't just work for one body type. She wanted as many women as possible to come to her site and find a pair of jeans to fall in love with.