Business advice/tell all from co-founder of True Religion Jeans

Remember True Religion Jeans? The denim brand was created in 2002 with a style of jeans featuring oversized pockets, bold stitching and flared legs. It took a few years to catch on, but by 2005, they were on some of the most well-clad bottoms in the country.

When she co-created True Religion Brand Jeans, Kym Gold had a single mantra “Never settle for a no; always look for a yes.” In her memoir/tell-all “Gold Standard: How to Rock the World and run an Empire,” (Skyhorse Publishing, $25) Gold offers just that type of advice for aspiring entrepreneurs as well as giving the inside scoop on what was really going down at True Religion. According to her, all was not well.

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Not long after the brand hit big, she and her then husband/co-founder Jeff Lubell were headed for divorce. Gold says that came with a plan to erase her from the business.

In a 2009 interview with Fortune Magazine, Lubell was referred to as the founder (not co-founder) of True Religion Jeans and took credit for designing and selling the jeans in stores like Fred Segal in Los Angeles. Gold was not mentioned at all.

Gold met Lubell after her divorce from Mark Burnett (yes, Survivor, Shark Tank, etc.) At the time she was working hard to establish herself in the world of design. Gold, a triplet and Southern California native, had previously embarked on an acting career with her sisters, but found her true calling was to create clothing.

She started by selling reworked t-shirts at Venice Beach, a venture which netted her $50,000 cash each month at age 19. Gold picked up the real estate bug while Burnett, she says, picked up women. They were both working at her stepfather’s company and Burnett left a trail of receipts to which Gold had easy access.

Gold ran into Lubell at a party and though he was married at the time, an affair began. They later married. Gold was 23 and when she had her first child, she decided to launch a clothing company. It didn’t last long, but after having a third child she came back with a denim brand, Bella Dahl. The couple would go through another denim company and Gold would take jobs at Shelli Segal and Rampage, before they were able to launch True Religion with shaky personal finances.

The rest is fashion history, until Gold says she was served divorce papers on Valentine’s Day ending her 17 year marriage to Lubell. Gold says she ended up settling for less than she felt she was worth — like, 25 million less– and let go.

Read the book for details on how she went on to create and close her Babakul brand and how two years ago her ex-husband Lubell was ousted from True Religion.

The brand was purchased by TowerBrook Capital Partners in 2013. Despite a design partnership with model Joan Smalls and a men’s collection curated by NBA star Russell Westbrook, I think it is safe to say the heyday of True Religion jeans has passed. Here’s a vid of the Fall 2015 collection from Joan Smalls x True Religion:

 

Throughout Gold’s memoir (or blame book as one of two Amazon reviewers calls it), the serial entrepreneur offers splashes of hard learned lessons, in business and life. Here are just a few of my favorites (I’m paraphrasing and elaborating):

  • If someone copies you, feel flattered unless they are a crazy idea-thief trying to pass off your great idea for their own
  • Creatives should build up their business acumen. Even creative people need money to make their ideas reality
  • Fight to get women on your board of directors because unlike men, they may not steal your business from you
  • Life is too short to take a job that is not right for you, so don’t try to fit your square peg in a round hole
  • Learn how to pay your dues because it is more honorable than acting like you’re entitled to everything
  • Never straddle the fence for too long…you just may get pushed off

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