We’ve all been wearing them all our lives and yet many of us seldom give them a second thought. But jeans have come a long way since teenagers first embraced them in the 50s, and Brighton company Fallow Denim are making great strides in theirs. We spoke to Bronagh Keegan about them.
Japanese denim seems to be where it’s at these days.
Americans had a good run for a while but the Japanese method is the best now, yes. The mill we use in Japan for our denim has a unique dyeing process; it embeds itself into the fibres better. It’s a process they use for dyeing kimonos. There’s a whole world of denim geek-ism, if you want to open that door…
Yeah, open away – let’s geek out.
Well, there’s a standard way of wearing Japanese raw selvedge, which is what we use (selvedge being the non-overlap sewing method). You should wear your jeans for at least six months without washing them – we’d really recommend a year. If you start to wash them early on it doesn’t give the jeans a chance to make the natural crease marks that are unique to the way you sit down, you’re washing out the dye. Jeans you buy in the shop have regimented whispering and fake paint splashes, but if you wait before you wash raw selvedge the accents come out stronger.
The Japanese apparently bought a lot of old American looms.
They’re old shuttle looms and they weave the denim in short lengths. So it’s much more expensive but much better quality, it’s not made on a massive industrial loom. It’s almost like the silk of the denim world, not like little worms making it but just as highly sought after.
You import the denim and manufacture the jeans in the UK.
It’s a really important part of our life really, we like being able to be part of the process. We like to think we’re doing our bit for the planet too; we don’t wash it, there’s no laundry involved. We’re very aware of the cost to the planet denim has – if you buy a pair of washed and bleached jeans they’ve gone through a lot of processing, water and chemicals – we just don’t buy into that. You wash them yourself. But being British and having them made here is important, yes.
It must be a challenge getting a new brand into shops.
Well we tend not to go for high street stores; in Brighton our stockist is Peggs & Son. Our stockists have a reputation for quality, bringing on forward-thinking brands to push British fashion. Goodhood in Shoreditch was where we launched – they’re much edgier and more artistic with what they put in their shop but the response has been really good.
Jeans have always been utility wear but there’s a high-end fashion side too.
We don’t really concern ourselves with that – our jeans are work wear. I’ve literally just sold a pair to a builder. They may be expensive but there’s a reason for that, they’re handmade, well made and made to last. This is the challenge – if you get a hole in the pocket I’ll mend it myself.
Shops like Primark doing jeans for nine quid must be a challenge too.
It’s not even on our radar; they’re not our customers. They’re not really going to be able to do it anymore anyway, with the price of cotton and industry in the Indian market where a lot of them are made. They’re already looking at their wages and wondering why they’re not being paid more. We pay fairly for everything, we know exactly where it’s all coming from and our jeans are literally touched by two pairs of hands before you get them.
So at around £150 a pair, where do you sit in the jeans market?
We’re definitely in the premium denim bracket, but there are brands out there like PRPS, which go for £200-300, or Balmains for a grand. The styling is amazing though, and an awful lot of work goes into them, but it’s more a fashion thing. We’re very conscious of our market, we’re not saying these are like a pair of vintage Levi’s but we’re not reinventing the wheel either. I think we’re quite fairly priced and I think that’s why we’re becoming a brand that people want. We want people to like them for what they are, not for whose bum they’ve seen them on.
WORDS BY NICK COQUET