It is said that necessity is the mother of invention, and in the case of Salvatore Parasuco, it could be argued that it was certainly a prime motivator. As the child of an immigrant family, he understood only too well the economic realities of survival. Yet, as you sit across from this charismatic man while he tells you his story, you quickly realize that necessity was only one part of the recipe. The energy, intelligence, and passion the man exudes are contagious and you understand that what made this man an icon are those character traits that are common to all superstars in every field: perseverance, determination…GRIT.
The Parasuco story is unique. Salvatore started selling bleached jeans to his friends from his high school locker at 15 years old. The success was such that he enlisted his mother’s help in what was certainly the only fashion savvy home entreprise in the poor district where he lived. At 19 he opened his first store, and to stimulate sales put a pair of his old jeans in the window display. Soon everyone wanted that pre-washed look and the home-based laundry thrived.
He founded Santana Jeans at 22 in a market that was extremely competitive. At a time when the clothing manufacturing industry thrived in Montreal, skilled workers of Italian origin were employed as cutters, sewing machine operators, seamstresses. Parasuco broke the mold, he was in the front office designing and managing!
Early on, he adopted a mantra that drives him to this day. “The market doesn’t need me, they don’t have to listen to me. I need to give them a reason to come to me.” Spurred on by this mindset, Salvatore’s creativity led the company to become a leader in design, known for its superior fit and innovative use of dyeing and pre washing techniques. Parasuco revolutionized the industry introducing acid wash and sandblasting to treat the denim, cigarette jeans, and his famous sailor pants.
He also recalls being the first to introduce stretch jeans. He cut a piece of fabric on the bias and realized it stretched. He had 500 pairs of jeans cut on the bias and manufactured and they sold out immediately.This fabric contained polyester and he thought it would stretch better if the denim was blended with lycra. He took his idea to the major fabric manufacturers, they all thought there was no future in that…
In 1988, he decided to fly solo and created Parasuco Jeans. Fashionistas and celebrities quickly recognized the quality and unique design of the Parasuco jean and audacious ad campaigns helped drive the brand to worldwide recognition. Vintage Parasuco jeans from the 90’s are today a prized possession.
The last decade has seen major changes in consumer buying habits. Small independent retailers have all but disappeared and fast fashion chains abound. Online shopping has grown exponentially and created new challenges for manufacturers. Salvatore is particularly critical of the current trend towards fast fashion. “Fast fashion chains have no design fees, they copy everything. They are not fashion companies, they are logistics companies. They can buy a pair of jeans for $5 and sell it at $30 and when they reduce it to $15 they still make money,” he decries.
In 2015, Parasuco Retail closed all seven stores including its flagship Saint-Catherine store. Some thought it was the Parasuco Jeans Company that was closing. The retail operation was only 25% of the total business, so rumours of Parasuco’s demise were grossly exaggerated. “When we opened the retail outlets in 1997 we wanted to have the ability to showcase our entire product line to the consumer,” Salvatore recalls. “Having our own stores allowed us to give free reign to our creativity and direct access to our customers and It worked until the changes that affected all retailers hit us as well.”
Parasuco has maintained its direct access to its customer base by maintaining a strong web presence through its online shopping site while continuing to be available through several retail stores and chains. “We now have the ability to immediately present our new styles to customers worldwide,” he says. “This has led us to move away from creating seasonal collections and towards introducing our new models as soon as they are produced. Ironically, this actually allows us to introduce our models before they are copied!”
The Parasuco brand has retained its emphasis on innovative design and high quality and Salvatore will never relinquish that positioning. He foresees a change in consumer buying habits that will shift from disposable low quality clothing to items reflecting an individual style and offering durability. He believes that “As the millennials age, they will want to stand out and be unique, fast fashion can’t offer that.” Parasuco Jeans is, more than ever, ready to fulfill those needs.