The Dish on Dish & DUER Denim
When Taylor Dansby and I discovered Dish & DUER jeans at Outdoor Retailer in winter of 2016, we knew we had stumbled upon truly innovative denim for everyday adventurers like ourselves and our customers. We got to sit down and talk to the founder and CEO of the company, Gary Lenett, who immediately put us in a pair of jeans so we could experience the difference of their denim. Thankfully, he let us keep the pants as neither of us wanted to take them off. In further conversation with Lenett, we learned about his family roots in the apparel and denim industries, reflecting our own heritage as a second generation family business. Finding a brand with quality people behind it is key to our mission at TB&C and Lenett and his team reflect our own core values of passion, adventure and community, creating products that make adventure more accessible, comfortable, and meaningful. In this exclusive interview with Lenett, savor his wise words on the art of doing more with less and discover what a difference the perfect pair of jeans can make in your daily life.
Tell us about yourself. Who are you? What inspires you? What drives you? What brings you joy?
My name is Gary Lenett and I’m the founder and CEO of Dish & DUER, a Vancouver-based clothing brand that bridges the gap between fashion and active apparel. I come from a family rooted in fashion and entrepreneurship, as my father was a denim supplier and my grandfather was a multi-line sales rep, selling clothing to the top fashion stores of his time. After practicing law for more than five years, I needed something that I could be passionate about day-in and day-out. In a joint effort with my brother, we took over our family’s denim business. Together, my brother and I became one of North America’s largest denim manufacturers, touting more than 500 employees. Trained in the factories of Levi Strauss, we manufactured and designed denim for Levi’s, Nordstrom, Harley Davidson, Gap, and more. From there, I launched a number of brands, including Dish Jeans, a young contemporary denim line that grew exponentially in the 2000s. But in 2013, I realized something needed to change. I was tired of the fashion industry, where there was a race to the bottom producing goods based on the same trend reports, and doing so as cheaply as possible, ethical standards be damned. In 2012, I set off on an entrepreneurial exploration to design some of the first ever performance denim. My goal was and still is to make the best pants in the world. After a year of designing, testing and finessing, DUER was born, and has grown rapidly year after year. DUER apparel is now sold in more than 200 retailers in 150 cities across Canada, The United States and Europe.
What inspired you to start Dish & DUER?
Real people and real problems. We want to make it easier for people to get dressed, so they can get on with the good stuff in their lives - the healthy, adventurous, meaningful stuff. Our clothing is designed for those real people to help them do just that.
What is your Dish and DUER's mission? What is your personal life mission? How do they influence one another?
Our mission at Dish & DUER is that we believe in doing more with less and to have the freedom to get on with all the good stuff. You need to feel comfortable in what you're wearing, how you look and what you can do in the clothes you wear, so that you can get dressed, and get on with it.
How do you incorporate play into your life to create a healthy work/life balance?
I’ve always made time to prioritize important things in my life that help keep me grounded. And, I can proudly say that I’ve had a great time getting to where I am today. I plan my schedules in-advance so that I have time to focus on my personal goals and aspirations. I have set times throughout the day that I use for myself - whether this be a moment of meditation, going to the gym, or a quick bike ride.
5. What are some of the obstacles you have overcome to pursue this dream?
Just like any industry, the apparel segment is constantly evolving and there are significant changes every single day. It’s sometimes difficult to foresee these external factors that may affect the way your business operates. With that, I’ve been able to learn from these challenges and continue to make more strategic decisions as an entrepreneur.
6. What are you excited about right now?
I’m excited about the way the apparel industry is changing, for the better. Consumers are
becoming more educated before buying. They’re researching brands before shopping
in-store/online and they’re factoring in where and how products are made. I believe this
change in the industry will reflect positively, with a higher level of transparency from brands
which will ultimately create an economy that operates on the grounds of ethical and
What piece of advice do you have for outdoor enthusiasts with entrepreneurial spirits?
Align your dreams with something you’re truly passionate about. Make sure it’s worth all those sleepless nights, find yourself a great partner (or partners), prioritize staying healthy, and have fun. If it’s not fun, it’s not worth it.
What would you have done differently when you started your company if you knew then what you know now?
Just like any high growth startup, it’s hard to have a structured plan when the world is throwing you curveballs. There are so many external factors that affect the way a business operates which makes it difficult to forecast numbers years ahead or stick to a solidified plan. There’s nothing I would have done differently because every challenge has taught my team and I a lesson and given us the opportunity to pivot and create a better plan so it doesn’t happen again in the future. And, if it does we’ll know how to maneuver through it.
I’m excited about what’s next for Dish & DUER. We’ve recently launched international distribution - we’re now available in 6 European countries, all across North America, and across the world through our ecommerce platforms. We’re constantly working on new product arrays and categories. For example, we’re launching shirts for summer 2018 and our new DUER Women’s line in spring of 2019.
What’s your favorite product and why?
It’s hard to pick a favorite because all of the products we bring to market serve such a strong purpose in my day-to-day. But, I find myself wearing our Performance Denim the most often. It’s the first fabric we brought to market and my background is in denim, so I will always
gravitate towards it.
Bonus question: What do you want your legacy to be? How do you want to be remembered?
I want to be remembered as an individual who brought positive change to the fashion industry by creating products that serve a purpose to consumers. So, they can do more with less and continue to have the time and freedom to get on with the important stuff in their lives.