A hashtag that sounds like a question, but the real question is… How do you wear yours? How do you prefer your jeans? This is just what G-Star RAW asks in the new FW15-16 Campaign. The mood is the usual one: young, funny, provocative.

Founded in Amsterdam in 1989, specialized in making unwashed and untreated denim, the Brand manages to impose itself on the market thanks to its urban style and innovative approach. It cleverly mixes vintage inspirations and contemporary deconstructions. Its is a luxury streetwear, a constantly changing world that no doubt looks at the past, but just to reinvent it.

Last January we were in Florence for the latest Pitti Immagine Uomo edition and there we met Shubhankar Ray, Global Brand Director.

Born in Calcutta in 1968, at the age of 21 he graduates at Manchester University with a Chemistry BSc. The step from chemistry to fashion is short, at least for him. For over twenty years he collaborates with internationally renowned brands: from Levi’s to Caterpillar (90s), from Camper (early 2000s) to Stride. In 2006, he arrives at G Star where he looks after communication and image.

A pragmatic and together brilliant man, Shubhankar is both the mind and the heart behind the last nine years’ successes. Promoter of prestigious collaborations – Vincent Gallo, Rankin, Pharrell William to name a few – and deus ex machina of memorable campaigns, with the most recent effort he aims at the viral effect of the social network because jeans, either tight or wide, is certainly a viral phenomenon.


Fucking Young! – Hi, Shubhankar! Why don’t you tell us about the evolution of G Star since its birth?

Shubhankar Ray – G Star was really born as a modern innovative brand in 1989. At that time the market is dominated by heritage brands – like Levi’s in England – which are all about nostalgia and are just re-showing vintage products. Indeed, in 150 years the products has not really changed to the jeans. G Star starts as a modern denim brand pioneering – already in 1996 – the idea of raw denim being a commercially available product, not just for collectivists but for mainstream audiences. Moreover, it is G Star to pioneer the 3-Dimensional approach to denim design: the traditional denim is flat. G Star promotes an approach through which jeans are designed on mannequins so that they have 3D-volumes. This also means that a lot different constructions techniques are used – stretching, shrinking and preforming – so that jeans can follow the shape of the human body. G Star proposes a cross between biker’s pants and work pants and creates new different types of silhouettes. From that time to today, G Star has elevated in pushing that 3-Dimensional approach to denim design and mixing it with craftsmanship to get a product that is modern and vintage at the same time. Denim is something vintage and democratic on the one hand and something characterized by a modern handwriting on the other. Similarly, GS position in the market is something between analog and digital. The audience is digital but jeans business is analog. I think GS’s is a very kind of modern and fresh approach to denim and we spent 25 years in pioneering and building all this. And I like to call it a denim brand rather than a fashion brand: all is about denim, not fashion. Denim is democratic, fashion is elitist. The catwalk in fashion is in Milan, Paris, New York, London. The real catwalk for the audience is on the street. And denim is in the street.

As for myself, I arrived really eyed: I was a scientist and I did chemistry at the university. I fell into the fashion and advertisement business by mistake. I worked for Levi’s for five years and I learn a lot about American stuff like this. Then I worked as the global creative director at Caterpillar and in 2006 I joined G Star.


FY! – In this years, so hard for the market to face, what do you think your winning card is?

SR – I think the fact that we are a modern innovative denim brand and the fact that we put sustainability at the centre of our business. It’s not just a matter of responsibility but this is the real core of our brand.

In 2008, we started to look at sustainable fabrics and organic making of jeans from Nepal. So we started to measure and consider the ecological material footprint. If you look at our collection in 2009 and measure it, roughly only about 1% was fully sustainable. Then we decided to blend organic and sustainable materials in both jeans and t-shirt and the result is that in our 2014-15 collection 21% is fully organic materials. So I think we did a good job: from 1% to 21%. And just consider that the market average today is around 1%. Ours is the combination of a unique design signature, respect for the environment and a future-proof denim which puts sustainability at the center of the business. Today the most ideal form of sustainable design is about how to find use for waste materials and our project of using raw materials from the ocean is a good example of finding a second use for waste materials, like plastic.


FY! – Which are the differences between G Star and the other denim brands?

SR – I would say that we’re a modern innovative denim brand while many of the other brands are too much focused on heritage and nostalgia. They make very good vintage products but they are not so modernistic. Moreover, I thing that G Star’s influences are different as well. Our influences come from industrial design rather than fashion. We’re more influenced by architectural forms – think of Oscar Niemeyer, futuristic industrial design, industrially designed products of the 60s’. Our output is different because our input is different. About winning and losing, I think it’s good to go to the game with good cards and all we can do is making good cards to play.


FY! – What was G Star yesterday and what is it today?

SR – I’d say that G Star was denim and it is denim even now. It’s a matter of consistency. All the strongest brands in the world know they need to stay consistent and that is the secret for a long life. I like to think that we make products for a reason, not just for a season…


FY! – What about your 2015-16 Collection and campaign?

SR – For the next F/W we have a lot to do. A lot of development around denim, a lot of fabrics and fits innovation for women products as well. So we expect to work a lot on details. This means for example that we have dedicated designers only working on the back pocket design, because, you know, depending on the position of the back pocket a woman’s ass looks smaller, better or flat… And a lot of women desire a smaller one! All this is about being consumer-focused rather than retail-focused. We want to give the consumers what they want. The same is for the seam: if you move it a little bit to the front, it gives the optical effect of thinner legs, so it’s something that women will appreciate.

So we generally spend a lot of time working on fits and silhouettes but also on new fabrics and fabrications for denim. We have a stretch fabric called slander which is new and guarantees both comfort and wearability. We will also continue to develop the silhouette for men, we will move from skinny jeans to loose ones. So you will see a trend away from the skinny jeans.

As for the campaign, we want to focus back on denim to make it the real hero of the campaign, no celebrities. The product is the hero and we want to develop a very good one, able to capture a woman’s sensuality. So our focus is on women as well. Our product is for a strong, independent and persuasive woman. Our campaign is about pushing denim being younger.

We will also add an online element, the hashtag, so that we can express our desire to create a dialogue with the audience. Generally advertisement is 2-Dimensional, it’s a monologue – think of an imagine in a magazine – and the audience doesn’t get to speak back. Our online idea is about to get the audience in the dialogue and we hope that this dialogue we’ll create a common trip around jeans and reinforce the fact that G Star is jeans.

Recently I have seen a big return to denim, think of Prada and Tom Ford.  Our job is to make future-proof jeans.


FY! – Which are the opportunities offered by the web?

SR – I think the web today is about democracy because it gives the audience democratic power.  Democratic power in terms of what they are influenced by – this means what they see, feel appropriate in terms of fashion. Democratic power in terms of what they buy because the retail of fashion went online. Democratic power in terms of voice. So I think today online is a democratic driver and a factor moralizing the audience.


FY! – What about the press, instead? 

SR – I think people still want it because there’s something tactile about press. Personally, I believe more in the mix between analog and digital.


FY!Where would you prefer to see your campaign?

SR – I’d prefer to see it everywhere! I’d prefer to see it everywhere in culture.

I’d prefer to see it visible in magazines, visible and interactive online, visible and impactful on the street through billboard. And we gonna make it move all around the world and give it a momento. I think the biggest things to put in a campaign are energy and a momento.


FY! – How has communication changed in last years?

SR – With the media communication has become more fragmented. Previously there were very focused channels. Today everything is fragmented because there is a bigger number of different channels, Facebook, Instagram, Viber, Snapchat. And they all are becoming more and more powerful because they are the communication language of young people. All we can do, as a 21 years old brand, is to make young people turn into men. This is an imperative and we can do that by mentally shifting from thinking whether these are the channels to thinking you as a person are the biggest channel.


FY! – Who is the man who wears G Star?

SR – Everybody. Fucking young and fucking old! We want to be for everybody because denim is democratic. It is not elitist. So we don’t even have a target. I think target is all bullshit of marketing and I think the audience don’t want bullshit. They just want the truth.


FY! – An adjective to express what denim means to you.

SR – Universal, democratic and special. I think denim is the iconic product of the streetwear because it has the ability to come through culture, race, age, taste, geography, sex. Very few products in fashion can do this.


FY! – Your favourite item?

SR – At the moment, my favourite item are jeans and bomber jackets.


FY! – What is really FUCKING YOUNG!?

SR – FUCKING YOUNG! is an attitude and a state of mind. In my opinion an 18 years old kid can feel fucking young the same way I’m 47 and feel fucking young.