Behind the Seams: Matt Janes, On a Journey from Backyard to Billboards

By: Kontoor Brands News Team Sep 12, 2019 Feature Story Tags: Workplace, Culture

Great marketing helps consumers see themselves in ways they’d never imagined. But even Matthew Janes couldn’t have foreseen how his career would unfold. When the marketing director for Wrangler®’s EMEA region says he started his career in his backyard, he meant it literally.

We caught up with Janes recently for a candid conversation, and he shared his career path, approach and vision.

How did you get your start in the apparel industry?

At 18, I borrowed money from my best friend to buy materials and start screen printing T-shirts in my garden. I didn’t have a screen-printing machine—just spray paint and stencils—but I met a few people in the industry, and they said, “If you’re going to do this, why don’t you do a trade show?”

I quickly headed to Berlin with a handful of tees I’d made by hand and, shockingly, I came back with 7,000 orders, so I knew I was onto something.

We’re not even going to ask how you fulfilled all those orders by hand—but what started you on the path to working in marketing, and ultimately landing a leadership role with Wrangler?

That trade show really introduced me to what buyers want and what they don’t want. At the same time, a magazine about arts, culture and news came along. I said, “Hang on a second. There's a market here for a new magazine that’s more approachable, more like streetwear fashion.”

Three friends and I founded a magazine that quickly became Britain’s largest streetwear publication, producing 60,000 copies a month. And I got to lead the advertising and media strategy.

Wrangler and Lee both advertised with me 15 years ago, which is an interesting coincidence. Granted, there were a number of marketing roles with other companies in between the magazine and my current gig, but I never would have guessed I’d be influencing Wrangler ads, similar to the ones I was placing in my magazine more than a decade ago.

What’s the coolest project you’ve worked on while at Wrangler?

There are so many to pick, but I think the most recent one would definitely be the way we’ve tried to capture the relationship between music, fashion and culture. We decided to open a pop-up store in the heart of London, with a recording studio, and it was a brave move for us, but it flipped the idea of how we attract a Wrangler consumer on its head.

The music studio is where many people of different backgrounds come together to create art that is bigger than them, that will live on longer than them, that is shared and listened to all around the globe. And we wanted that reflected in Wrangler.

What is the creative environment like for the marketing team in Antwerp?

My team is the best. I’m absolutely obsessed with everything that’s going on in the office. Our creative ideas are primarily internally bred within the team. We’re our own little mini-agency. Someone will suggest an idea like a pop-up store in London, and if it’s something we’ve never done before, we are bold and try to figure out how to make it happen. We always want to turn up the noise.

What makes you excited about working at Wrangler?

The best thing about this brand is its potential to evolve, and everyone here at the office wants it to see it happen. Right now, we’re looking at sustainability as one of the brand’s paths forward, whether that’s finding quality dying fabric, sourcing the best material, or even working in eco-friendly offices.

With the brand now being part of a new company, Kontoor Brands, it really allows us to focus on our global presence and be more experimental with our marketing. It will all come together on one creative platform, but regionally focused. I’m excited about where we’re headed.