Denim is a tricky topic, it being almost all things to all men. There’s a denim to suit almost anyone, from young to old, poor to rich and for whatever kind of use you’d imagine. So, with all the choice available it can be hard to find the denim that will suit you. Today’s post is about one of the possible denim brands you should have on your short-list.
Made in Britain is a movement gaining traction these days. Back to Britain, back to real stuff made by real people back in good olde Blighty. Even the big boys in the high street are sensing which way the wind is blowing and getting in on the game. The smaller companies that have been doing this for a while must feel vindicated. Will the consumers be willing to pay the premium for British made garments, over the cut-price kit being produced in low-cost countries?
Hiut Denim are still a fairly young venture, though the brains behind it are old hands in the game. David and Claire Hieatt, the entrepreneurial couple behind the label have a strong background in both garments and advertising, and it shows. David worked his way up via sportswear to advertising, with acclaimed advertising campaigns while working for Saatchi & Saatchi, and on to doing advertising for Adidas. By this time though, the couple were already building their own brand, Howies, from their own home. Having moved to Cardigan in Wales, it was time for a new take on things. With Howies, they did the ecological, organic thing, before it became popular. They built up a successful brand, but at it’s height they were forced to sell their stake in the business to Timberland, and not long after decided to quite the company them self.
So what does the small town of Cardigan have to offer a fledgling jeans manufacturer? Well, for starters a whole town full of qualified garment workers. Until around 2002 Cardigan was home to Dewhirst Ladieswear, Britain’s largest surviving jeans factory, a 400 strong company that mainly produced for Marks & Spencer. The factory employed around 1 in 10 of the towns inhabitants, until Marks & Spencer decided to outsource its manufacturing to the lower-cost garment factories in Morocco. A devastating blow for a small town like this!
10 years later, David and Claire arrive in town, buy 24 sewing machines from a closed down Wranglers factory in Poland and announce in the local paper that they are hiring to start making jeans again. Plenty of publicity and plenty of people interested in making jeans again. They hire 3 ladies to sew, giving them the title “Grand masters”, a cutter with 37 years experience of cutting jeans, and a man to fix and maintain the machines. Of course, all this does provide a great background story, and with Davids years of experience of advertising knows to milk this for what it’s worth. Of course, hiring 4 of the potentially 400 workers hardly makes a difference to Cardigan, and this obviously only the start. Starting small and growing organically on the back of a good product is the sane and proper way to do business. The stated ambition is to employ everyone that worked at the old Dewhirst again.
So what makes Hiut different?
Hiut denim are now making a premium quality jeans, at a premium price point, in relatively small numbers. This must be quite an interesting market to be in. You have a number of Big Companies already offering premium product, as well as an increasing number of small, artisan makers, so finding an angle that gets attention is a challenge. Of course, the back story gets the attention, and I think this probably means a lot for sales in the UK and Japan. A reputation for solid quality takes time to build up, so it’s still early days there, even though the construction of my early pair of jeans is impeccable.
The options are narrow, there are only 2 models in production, available in 2 different types of denim. The denim is important though, as in the premium market you need all the bragging rights you can come up with. Hiut offer two type, a lighter weight organic denim made in Turkey, and a heavyweight Japanese selvedge variant. For me it had to be the selvedge variant, and kindly Hiut also offer extra length on on the legs to allow for turn-ups (you’d surely not buy selvedge denim and not proudly show the edge?). The denim is supplied in raw form, as in it hasn’t been washed yet and the Big Thing here is to wear the trousers for as long as possible without washing them, ideally over 6 months, to ensure you get your own personal wear pattern. This isn’t as bad as it may sound, as you can put the jeans in the freezer now and then to kill odour, or even make sure you let them air well between use. The point of creating your own personal wear pattern is to make your jeans unique to you, rather than the lame pre-distressed (some would say pre-destroyed) variants you find stacked in the shops. I will never forget the look on a couple of girls faces when a salesman at a local jeans emporium explained how he’d been wearing his Nudie jeans every day for eight months without washing them. Suffice to say, this wasn’t a killer line to clinch a sale to the ladies!
For me, an extra thrill was discovering that one of the Grand Masters, Elin, shares her name with WellDressedGirlfriend, and lo and behold, my pair was in fact sewn by Elin. A nice piece of symmetry in an otherwise asymmetrical existence (or did that even make sense?)
If I could change something about my own jeans, I wish I’d not gone for the skinny style with the lower rise. The higher rise, in trouser-speak how can the trouser goes up over your hips, would have made then nicer to wear. Low-rise jeans is more the domain of the younger, more streetwise guy. I’m of such an advanced age that I prefer my posterior to be draught-free!
Apart from the back story though, Hiut has another innovation on hand. Every pair of jeans has a unique ID inscribed on the inside. This ID can be registered in their History Tag application, thus providing a way to record the history of the jeans from production onwards. Hiut do their bit by taking photos of the jeans in production and before shipping, from then on it’s up to the proud owner to keep it up. While the idea is that this can allow the history to span several owners, I suspect it may end up more a way for denim heads to show off their wear patterns to like minded guys. While writing this post, I did try to update the History Tag entry for my trousers, but found the process a little involved, so I’ve added my photos to this post instead.
The latest news from the Hiut camp is that they’ll be launching women’s models in May, so apply now for an early delivery of a smashing pair of jeans for your significant other!