Designer Jean Interviews
Earnest Sewn have hired their original designer, Ben Talley Smith, as their new creative director of the company. We asked Ben a few questions on how he feels about the new position, his plans for the denim company and more. You can read the interview below.
DB: How do you feel about being back at Earnest Sewn?
I am extremely excited to be back at Earnest Sewn. Earnest Sewn is a brand that has so much to offer and already has such a great history and customer base. I feel confident that I’m the right person to come back in and evolve the brand further.
DB: As creative director, do you have any plans to grow the brand?
Yes of course! There are a ton of concepts that we started in the past that I would like to revisit. We had a premium concept called AEC&S that was probably before it’s time that I am looking forward to addressing again. Not necessarily AEC&S as it was but the concept of pushing the envelope in terms of wash technique and innovation. Earnest Sewn has always been about being on the cutting edge of wash and fabrication and I intend to continue that. Wash development has always been a passion of mine and I think it keeps a brand relevant. I plan to update and evolve the Earnest Sewn wash and style range in upcoming collections.
DB: Are you going to take it in a new direction at all or keep it the same?
Earnest Sewn has always had a great vision. I intend to continue with the Vintage Americana aesthetic mixed with Japanese detailing in Men’s while I am going to try to modernize the women’s direction slightly. I don’t intend to drastically change what the brand is about, as I believe it stands for integrity of product and innovation in the marketplace.
DB: Can we expect anything new and exciting from Earnest Sewn then?
Yes, starting with an update to the spring ‘12 line. We are working on an additional fashion capsule as well as a few fast track styles. I’m a firm believer in being able to react to what’s in the market and in making sure we have what’s current as well as new innovative designs. I am also focused on creating additional collaborations, as that has always been part of the Earnest Sewn history.
DB: How does it feel being creative director instead of a designer for the brand?
It actually doesn’t feel much different. While at Earnest Sewn in the past, I was allowed to design the product that I loved so it’s nice to be able to do that again. I’m excited to see what I can bring to the market on my own and with the Earnest team. We are working with the best factories and laundries in the industry so I feel confident that we can make amazing product that people will want to purchase.
DB: Have you learned a lot in your time away from the brand that can help make it better?
I have learned and grown significantly since leaving Earnest Sewn in 2009. Scott Morrison, the founder of Earnest Sewn has always been a close friend and mentor to me over the years – from ES to Evisu to 3×1, so I feel equipped for the task. I also learned a great deal from Marcus Wainwright and David Neville when I worked with them at Rag & Bone as they launched the Rag & Bone/JEAN line. The last few years have taught me about building an international brand and what the market is looking for. I feel honored to have been able to work for some of the industries most talented designers and hope that I can use all that I have learned from them to make Earnest Sewn as good as it can be.
DB: What sort of trends do you see for next season?
I see the continuation of colors done with new techniques as well as coating but you will just have to wait and see!
DB: And just for fun, how many jeans do you own? I’m sure it’s a lot!
Not as many as you might think. Like most people, I usually wear the same jeans until I come up with something new that I absolutely have to have, but in my archive in Brooklyn, probably around 250. I’ve always ended up with the amazing first developments that for one reason or another didn’t make it into the line. Those are my prize jeans, the true one of a kind’s.
DB: Wow, that is quite a lot of jeans. I have a couple of sample jeans or ones that didn’t make it to production from some brands which I love too, what sort of wash is your favourite from those ‘prize jeans’ as you call them?
Honestly, there are a few and it often changes, but my current favorites are a slick resin coated “6 month” wear pattern jean with a reverse repair hem from the 2007 Earnest Sewn collection. Another is an over-dyed coated black jean that once had actual high gloss black house paint applied to the seams. But probably my prize jean is a replica of one of the most iconic jeans in history from 1917 that we only made 6 pairs of at a huge expense. It took about 72 hours of repair work per jean to make and it’s really one of the more amazing jeans I’ve ever seen.
DB: That does sound amazing! Thank you Ben!
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We caught up with Michael Silver, the president of Silver Jeans Co. to find out more about the brand, it’s fits, why it was started and of course its 20th anniversary plans!
DB: Congratulations on your 20th anniversary! How does it feel to have been in the business so long?
To be honest it feels like I just started! A combination of exuberance and fear make everyday seem like a new day and challenge. 20 years may sound like a long time but to me it seems like just yesterday that I started the brand. Silver Jeans Co. is also a baby compared to our parent company, Western Glove Works, which is also celebrating it’s 90th birthday this year!
DB: How has Silver Jeans evolved over the years?
Well, in many respects, the basic DNA Remains completely intact. We are “jeaners” and we always have been. We worry about every stitch, every wash formula, every yard of fabric. We don’t manufacture jeans, we craft them so daily the grind of making a perfect pair of jeans is the same. The only difference is that we have expanded the number of styles we make and the audience to which we sell. Our fans include all ages and backgrounds and our product offering in sportswear has certainly grown enormously. But as I said we remain “JEANERS.”
DB: For our readers who are not familiar with Silver Jeans, what makes your jeans so great?
As I just said, we “craft ” them. We are tireless about the details; the way the inside pockets work; the stitches per inch; the shape of every pattern angle on a jean is scrutinized and has been improved over the last 20 years. In the 90 years that our parent company has been in business, we have crafted over 70,000,000 million jeans in our history and learned a thing or two about denim, shrinkage, how product reacts to home wearing and home washing. We have a technology team that literally writes a specification book on each and every style and there are hundreds of styles created yearly. We test and retest our laundry formulas and the stitching and seam allowances. We even concern ourselves with what happens if a jean sits on retailer’s shelf in terms of the light and it’s effects on indigo and fit. We fit and refit every single production run of jeans and our technologists look at every aspect of the laundry and dry processes on prototypes and once again on every production run.
DB: I heard for the anniversary you are reissuing a limited edition jean called the Frisco, can you tell us more?
Frisco was really our breakthrough “item” that helped build the brand some 20 years ago. My Design Director Allan Kemp and I were inspired by old Levi’s, contoured waistbands and processes to create aging for denim (sand blast and stone wash). We also thought flares were totally cool and that the rise and fit on women’s jeans sold at the time were not as good as they could be so we invented a fit “Frisco” with a contour waistband, a super low rise (at the time 11″ was considered LOW) and went on to sell 5 million Friscos over our history. We thought it fitting to celebrate our anniversary by reissuing the Frisco which pays homage to the original – a flare jean, button fly (as my designer says ,the only kind of fly for REAL JEANS ) and used a similar medium stonewash shade. It’s not as high rise as the original at all but it is a higher rise than many other Silver Jeans Co. jeans at 9″. It’s a simple jean that fits as comfortably as it looks!
DB: Do you have anymore 20th anniversary plans?
Other than reissuing the Frisco for the consumer and retailer who love it then, we plan to celebrate with our Silver jean Co. staff “family” in December. Compared to Levi’s or Wrangler, 20 years is really not that old. I think I will save the big celebration for our 50th year. In many ways, we’ve only just started with Silver Jeans Co.!
DB: What makes denim so important to you?
Denim is part of my heritage and part of our company’s heritage so it feels like “home” for us. It just feels natural to be involved in denim. Denim is a fabric and an lifestyle for all ages and all parts of the world! It’s timeless and everyone has a fond denim memory. I, myself, have many many!
DB: Why did you decide to create Silver Jeans Co. 20 years ago?
I had spent my first 17 years with Western Glove Works in the production and engineering side of the denim business (even though I was a fine arts grad !!). So after really wanting a new personal focus and after seeing the successes of many of the licensed brands we manufactured at the time, we started our own “brand” almost as a challenge to myself. After years of making jeans for many of our own work wear labels and many other notable private label retailers, we thought it’s time to take 70 years of experience and put it into a brand that is truly our very own !
DB: What has been your favourite memory since the brand was founded?
There are so many! I think when my Design Director and I would travel the world from Tokyo to Amsterdam to Iowa almost 20 years ago, we had so much fun! We would look at every jean anywhere, tear it apart, study and theorize how it was made, why it was made and then… try and figure out how Silver Jeans Co. could do it better (this was almost always over Sushi and sake!)
Today… many years later, I meet people who have been wearing my brand for 20 year’s that tell me how they still love them.
A new online magazine called The Brander recently interviewed Mother Denim’s Tim Keading. Their LA correspondent met him in person and Tim shared lots of interesting insights with her. You can see a preview of some of the photos above and below and you can read a portion of the interview below as well. You can check out the interview in full and see more photos on The Branders website by clicking here.
Tim Kaeding is something of a star in the US denim fashion scene. His fans enthuse about the skillful cutting techniques that make his jeans flattering to every shape and kind of derriere. But, were it left up to the designer who has worked successfully for jeans labels like “7 for All Mankind” and “The Gap Women’s Jeans,” the subject of his talent would never be brought up. As a Midwesterner from Chicago, he is much too well-bred to do so. Style – in every sense of the word – is his motto.
“I am extremely critical when it comes to fit, fabric and execution.”
Fittingly, Kaeding lives in an elegant Spanish Colonial residence in Los Feliz, a fashionable district to the east of Hollywood. His unerring sense of style is reflected in his home’s interior decoration; obviously, absolutely nothing has been left to chance. Yet, most impressive of all, this perfection comes across as very relaxed and organic. Tim Kaeding likes to use his domicile with its leafy, park-like grounds as a location for video and photo shoots for his new label MOTHER Denim, established in 2010. His home’s West Coast rock ‘n’ roll glamour is both timeless and hip, and captures the essence of MOTHER Denim perfectly.
The actual “glamour engineering,” however, is conducted in a completely different world. South of the 10 freeway in Los Angeles, this is an area that stands for gangland or, as in MOTHER Denim’s case, the city’s bleak gray – aside from the blue southern Californian sky – industrial zone. Kaeding’s office is on the first floor of the production plant – small, cramped, and cheaply furnished. The floor is littered with denim fabric samples; a clothes rack is closely hung with the next collection. The walls are covered with sketches, color samples, and photographs. Books, magazines, labels, rivets, and buttons are spread out on the desk he shares with his two assistants.
We caught up with the co-designer and co-founder of Bleulab denim, Carl Jones, to ask some interesting questions about how Bleulab jeans work as reversible jeans and what’s up next for the brand. The concept of the brand fascinated me and I was very excited to receive a pair in the mail last week. I will be reviewing them next week for you but I’m not going to give anything away yet! Carry on reading to find out more about the brand. You can buy Bleulab jeans at Singer22.com.
DB: So how did you come up with the name Bleulab?
CJ: While traveling, I discovered an unusual piece of fabric that had a double face. This inspired me to experiment with different washes to see how each side reacted, hence the name Bleulab, Bleu as in denim and Lab as in experimental.
DB: Why did you decide to create a denim brand?
CJ: Denim and other types of bottoms is what I do. It was a very natural thought process to imagine that I could create a reversible collection from the piece of fabric I had discovered.
DB: So tell us more about Bleulab for our readers who are not familiar about the jeans.
CJ: Bleulab product is much more and has more personality than a basic pair of jeans. In addition to being completely reversible, with contrasting sides, the collection also presenst a constant metamorphosis of color, washes, prints and other interesting surfaces and textures.
DB: Why did you decide to create a reversible jean?
CJ: Why not?
DB: Was it as complicated as it sounds?
CJ: It was a year or so of constant testing, washing, fitting, hardware development, sewing development, and production development. It was a very challenging experience.
DB: How does each wash, on the inside and outside, complement each other?
CJ: I would not describe it as complimentary, but rather a display of juxtaposition.
DB: What is your best seller so far?
CJ: The basic legging in blue/black and grey/black. They are fantastic go to wardrobe elements and so comfortable for travel.
DB: Do you have a favourite jean you have designed?
CJ: I have a host of favorites, but what I love is the challenge from season to season to develop new ways to wash, print and color my fabrics.
DB: Tell us more about your history with denim.
CJ: I have been a bottoms developer and manufacturer since 1990.
DB: What new surprises can we expect from Bleulab?
CL: We have developed a new technology called laser etching. It is done with a laser machine that uploads artwork and etches it onto the jeans.