Behind the Seams: David Tring, Kickflipping Over the Competition
From dropping into a half pipe to designing clothes at 13 years old, David Tring’s life has been a wild ride. He’s a designer, skateboarder, artist, amateur documentarian and entrepreneur at heart from Nottingham, England. But as Vice President, Product at Lee®, Asia Pacific, David’s deep talent and knowledge of denim, street style, culture and fashion helped Lee become a leading denim brand in China. But his history with Lee and Wrangler® began long before he started working on these iconic brands.
“Here's the thing: I didn't go to university. I started my career in retail when I was 15, working in a jeans shop, selling Lee and Wrangler,” said David. “My mother did embroidery in a factory and my father worked in a lace factory, so I grew up with machines, fabrics and pins all around me. I was making my first products at 13 and selling them at school. I didn't know it was going to lead to this career path, but here we are.”
We virtually skated by David’s workspace to talk about his life and career progression.
What is your day-to-day life like at Kontoor?
I joined Wrangler in ‘98 and worked at the Belgium office for eight years. In 2006, I moved to Hong Kong when the opportunity arose. Now, I lead the Lee design and merchandising teams in Asia Pacific, in addition to leading the Wrangler merchandising team. I love that we touch all areas of the business. I get to collaborate with sourcing, marketing, sales - you name it. I deal with both sides of my brain: I get to work with creativity and business. I like to have that balance between the two.
What’s your advice for someone getting into this industry?
Make sure it's something that you're passionate about and never stop learning. When I look around at successful people in any industry, they tend to be the ones who never stopped learning. I'd also recommend working for a company that reflects your values. You're going spend a lot of time at work, so it's important to believe in what you're doing.
What’s your favorite career moment?
Watching the talent development of our teams. We’ve got people on our teams who joined from university and are now product directors. I love seeing how far they've come. Another highlight was when we helped develop Lee into a leading denim brand in China. That was huge for me because a lot of people thought we were crazy to even have that as an ambition.
What do you love about working at Kontoor?
Kontoor held a leadership conference, and our CEO Scott Baxter stood up at the end of the event and said, "Take care of each other." I've been around a long time and I'd never heard a leader of a company say that, and It was clear he was genuine. The products, the values, the people - these are the things that I love the most about what we do and who we do it with. It feels like a family atmosphere, which is different than a lot of companies that I've worked for.
What’s in David’s closet?
One item stands out: the 124 MJ Wrangler jacket. It's vintage. We've been through so much together and I wear it on a lot of presentations. It's my comfort jacket, if you like, when I need a little bit of support.
Favorite hobbies outside of work?
Travel is big for me and my wife. I'm also very big on animal rights – we have a couple of rescue dogs and we also volunteer with the rescue centers in Hong Kong.