Jeff Lubell prides himself on being an independent spirit. Rather than finish college, he moved to Salt Lake City with friends to ski for two years before coming to Los Angeles in 1978. A year later, he went to Rhode Island to work in a textile mill and learn about fabrics. He stayed in the textile industry for 25 years. In 2002, Lubell founded True Religion Apparel Inc. with Kym Gold, now his ex-wife. The premium denim company, which got its start selling jeans for $172 each, went public in 2003. In October, the company announced it had formed a committee to explore strategic options, including a sale of the company, after receiving inquiries from potential buyers. As of last week, no offers had been announced. Today, the company, which has about $450 million in annual revenue, has 119 stores in the United States and 28 overseas. Lubell met with the Business Journal at the company’s Vernon headquarters to talk about the inspiration behind the jeans brand, his love of classic rock music and his 1-year-old triplets.
Question: Why did you move to Utah after high school?
Answer: We always skied growing up. Not my family, but all my friends and their families. I started when I was about 15, and I just loved it and really got proficient at it. My friends and I decided school wasn’t working out, we didn’t love it, so we just picked up and left. We ended up in Salt Lake City.
What did you do in the summer when the snow had melted?
In the summers I was working housekeeping. I made beds, you know, whatever it took to survive. And I just hung out with all my friends who had moved there from Brooklyn. There were 25 of us, and a lot of them are still there.
Living in Los Angeles, do you ever miss the snow?
No, I’d rather fly to the snow or drive to the snow. I’ve done a lot of skiing in British Columbia, heli-skiing at Canadian mountain holidays. I’ve done about 2 million vertical feet skiing from a helicopter up there.
Wow. Do you still ski often?
I’ll ski about three weeks a year now.
How did you transition from skiing in Utah to making jeans?
When I moved out here to Southern California, my dad was in the missy half-size dress business. I wanted to get into the business with him, but he said, “Why don’t you go learn textiles first?” I got a job learning about fabrics, and I stayed with that for almost 25 years.
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