- Supermodel Bella Hadid will be the new face of the True Religion brand. According to the company, she "embodies all things True Religion, past, present and future; iconic, edgy and everlasting."
- She has also participated in the brand's revamp post-bankruptcy, along with photographer Boo George, stylist Mimi Cuttrell, and hair and makeup duo Jen Atkin and Mary Phillips, according to a company press release.
- The denim company exited bankruptcy last October — less than four months after filing for Chapter 11 protection in July.
True Religion came out of bankruptcy last year with bright hopes for a reset, unlike rivals that have folded or have been relegated to online-only sales. Like Payless, Gymboree and rue21, the retailer emerged with less debt and a leaner store footprint; all three entered Chapter 11 proceedings with restructuring plans in place that had the support of their lenders.
Refreshing the brand with a popular figure like Hadid is likely a move to capture more of the younger consumer market, and indeed the company claims that this campaign is all about "envisioning the brand through her eyes for the next generation of True Religion fans." Still, there's a fine line to toe when celebrity influencers are involved. Gen Z, in particular, responds to more authentic, conversational messaging from brands, and the generation also seeks out more interaction with its favorite retailers. While landing Hadid as the face of the brand is a good first step, the company might have more to do to grow that relationship with younger consumers.
Although denim sales have taken a back seat during the rise of athleisure, the brand may be in a good position. Streetwear and sales to women are the best bets for sports retailers these days, according to Matt Powell, vice president and senior industry advisor at The NPD Group. Those lessons could transfer to apparel at large, and unlike legacy stalwarts like Levi's, Lee and Wrangler (the last two are being spun off by owner VF Corp), True Religion jeans fit into a more stylized sub-segment that is resonating with younger customers.
All told, the global market for denim jeans is projected to witness healthy growth through 2022, according to market research firm FactMR. The women's segment in particular is projected to represent the highest revenue growth, accounting for more than $800 million by the end of that year, according to the firm's latest Denim Jeans Market Research Forecast, which called out True Religion as one of the "major players" in the space.
But the brand also faces renewed efforts from the likes of Target, American Eagle and J. Crew's Madewell brand. "The denim business at retail is fine but it continues to be highly commoditized and price driven and is also moving more and more each year away from established national brands into private label programs," Mark Cohen, Columbia Business School retail studies professor, told Retail Dive in an email last week.