Following on from my post about Norwegian denim brand Steel Feather a few days ago, I’m back with another piece about Norwegian denim. You may wonder if this is turning into Norwegian Denim Week, but unfortunately there is little basis for that. Livid and Steel Feather are the sum total of Norwegian denim, and while they have the Norwegian part in common, they are very different in other respects.
Livid Jeans is the brainchild of founder Jens Olav Dankertsen, a young guy in Trondheim, roughly in the middle of Norway. A town I mostly think of in relation to leather vests, moustaches and popular rock music of the type that only sounds good after too many beers. Trondheim is not a hip and happening place, though it does have the highest density of clever students anywhere in Norway. Yet this is where Jens Olav is bucking the trend and bringing garment production back. In general, Norway has focused production entirely on oil and salmon (don’t eat it) and sent the rest to Eastern Europe. A sad state of affairs, and why it is so heartwarming to see the rare case of someone doing the opposite.
Jens Olav started out as a salesman in a Norwegian denim chainstore, got the bug hard, and at the same time as he was doing his business studies he started a small denim workshop. He collected the necessary machines, often from factories that had closed down their sewing business, and taught himself the trade of creating jeans. Admirable dedication! He was also good enough at what he was doing to gain the support from the local denim enthusiasts.
And, let’s face it, he came up with an absolute fantastic name for his jeans… Livid. Totally on point, totally memorable, and totally cool.
Since the early days Livid has grown massively from being a one-man part-time operation. Today Jens Olav employs a seamstress (in a twist of irony, the only qualified person he could find was from Slovakia), and Frank the intern to help out. When the jeans are advertised as being produced by only 4 hands, that is the truth, as there just aren’t any more people around. And did I mention the jeans are handcrafted in Norway?
Jens Olav has ambitions though, ambitions beyond the number of jeans the two of them can make in his small workshop in Norway. In addition to the handmade in Norway line, he as a line of a little greater volume made in two small family-run factories in Portugal, where he has a whopping 5 people sewing his jeans. On the same vintage type of vintage machinery he uses in his own workshop.
While this may be seen as some as thinning the quality concept, it’s really very much about making the business viable. At the price charged, which is in line with similar jeans produced in countries with very much lower costs, there is no profit margin in only the handmade in Norway line. And they can’t keep up with demand as it is. In the future Jens Olav hopes to move production to Norway and rebuild some of the old Norwegian garment industry. In this respect Livid is similar to Huit Denim in Wales.
By this time you are probably starting to wonder what these Nordic jeans are like? Well, my initial impression was very positive. The denim is deeply blue and as utterly crisp as heavy weight denim should be. They’re not so heavy that they will stand on their own, nor are they the sort of heavy, yet soft, that Iron Heart does. Rigid though, that may be a good word to use. Pleasantly rigid.
Second impression is of the leather patch. Vegetable tanned, branded with the Livid Jeans brand and some Norwegian mountains. We also have the sizing handwritten onto the patch. And the limited edition numbering, as the handcrafted series is limited in the numbers that will be produced. Simple, yet very effective.
The denim used on my pair of Roald jeans is a 19oz rope dyed selvedge denim by Kurabo of Japan. Sanforized, so no surprises when it comes to washing and sizing.
Configuration-wise it’s the standard and classic 5-pocket variant, with 5 belt loops and rivets to strengthen the places where tears might happen. The question is, what does Livid bring to the table that others don’t?
The fly is unbranded YKK coper buttons, 3 small and a larger diameter one on top. Construction is well executed, with decent button holes. On the rear of the button flap is a strip of selvedge, in case you forgot about it the denim being the good stuff.
The coin pocket has a snippet of peek-a-boo selvedge showing, as also seen on the Flying Horse jeans I reviewed a few weeks back. An interesting little touch and one I’ve not seen other than on these two. As we know, it is very difficult to come up with new ideas in a product that is as mature as a pair of jeans.
The rivets are solid copper washer-burr rivets by YKK again. These should show some nice wear over time.
The pocket bags are all of 8oz heavy canvas with a nice feel to it. Something I rarely see is the strengthening on the inside edge of the pocket. A very nice touch indeed and one that should see the pockets last very much longer than if it hadn’t been there.
The back pocket has another little Livid logo stitched on. A touch unnecessary in my eyes, what with the leather patch a mere inch above it. The stitching on the rear pocket is a Livid special though, with the 4 parallel dark blue stitches. There is function to go with the look though, as the lower part of the inside of the pocket is strengthened with 8oz heavy canvas.
The same dark blue stitching returns on the inseams of the legs, where the more common 2 lines of yellow stitches is replaced by a single yellow and single dark blue line. I like this, as it means less contrast and more focus on the indigo colour.
Given that selvedge denim is very much about the edge of the fabric roll, it is nice to see a fresh colour combination on this Japanese variant. I’ve never before seen an edge where one side is yellow and the other dark blue. As a signature it works very well, and is certainly a nice change from the overused Levis colours.
Nice wash tag inside. Printed on canvas instead of the usual nylon. Continues the attention to detail shown throughout these jeans.
Almost throughout stitching is by lockstitch. Only the waistlining is chainstitched. Usually I would have expected the hemming to be done chainstitched, but here it is lockstitched. Why? Because Livid make an extra effort to make their jeans solid and long lasting, and while you may lose out on some of the “roping” effect, your hems will last longer when lockstitched.
Oh, and if you happen to need repairs, the trousers can be sent back to the Livid workshop for three free repairs. That shows dedication to your product.
This isn’t really the time of year to be wearing I have had the pleasure of a few days wear so far, and the fit of these Roalds is excellent. With some help from super-friendly Frank manning the Livid hotline, we quickly agreed on which model and size would be best for me. As I have a preference for a tapered fit, the “Roald” model was the one for me, having a decent rise as well as the preferred taper and thigh space. There are other fits for other preferences, so it’s best to have a word with Frank first.
As all handmade jeans are made to order, calculate 2 weeks before they are shipped. During this time they will be cut and assembled by Jens Olav and his master seamstress. This is a lean and efficient operation. Oh, and the jeans, they’re handcrafted in Norway. Apart from everything else good about them, that is the coolest of all.
Measurements (as supplied):
- Waist: Marked as 32″, measures 33″
- Inseam: Marked as 32″, measures 33″
- Fabric – Japan
- Trousers – Norway!
Score (1-5, 3 being average):
- Assembly: 4
- Details: 5
- Quality: 5
- Value for money: 5
- Cool-factor: 5