Sunday, March 04, 2007

First Look: Denim Design Lab LE Book

In the intro to his new book Brian Robbins starts with the sentence, "The beauty is in the details." He was describing vintage denim that can pass as folk art but it's apparent that this belief drove the creative process that resulted in the "Denim Design Lab LE" book. It's in a 9 x 12" hardcover, full color format, bound in Cone White Oak's organic denim (complete with attached selvage bookmark), finished by LA's APS Laundry and Finishing, and features cover embroidery, cutouts, and screen printing. You open the cover and see that you're holding a hand-numbered copy of only 5000 copies. But is this new edition just a repackaged version of the much smaller book that was included in the DDL finishing kits? Can you judge a book by its cover?

A few turns into the 175 pages or so I noticed the usual Levi's/Lee homage devices: black/white photos evoking Americana, old advertising posters and memorabilia, and a writeup of denim history. This glossy collage of quality images and texts is actually quite enjoyable to flip through. But for someone who has too many books on denim already most of the pictures (Cone's White Oak tree excepted) and information were unremarkable in their freshness. Yet I'm sure this presentation will still please many denim enthusiasts; +1 point.

The next few sections profile Adriano Goldschmied (often called the godfather of premium denim), Renzo Rosso (Diesel), and Hidehiko Yamane (Evisu). These three figures are respectable for having pushed the boundaries of their respective markets but to single them out in "a tribute to the beauty of vintage denim" leaves something to be desired. I have absolutely no problems with spotlighting these three giants if this book were a tribute to the business of denim. The connection between a beautiful pair of Levi's 501 made in the 1890's and these three fashion industry masters is not so strong. -1 point.

But make no mistake about it. This book features enlarged picture after picture of gorgeous vintage jeans photographed from various denim archives. While the smaller book included with the DDL finishing kit also showed these masterpieces you really have to see them in the large size that this limited edition offers. Check out the Levi's 501 "XX" (aka oldest known 501 in existence) and the "Nevada Jean" that Levi Strauss & Co. purchased on eBay for more than $46,000. The colors and details are stunning. Big +1.

Robbins also earns points with "The Denim Manufacturing Process." In this section he walks us through the general processes needed to turn cotton into cloth and documents some of the key processes with vintage photos from Cone Denim. Only those looking for nerdy, indepth industry knowledge will be left disappointed but we can't please everybody. For the majority of jeans lovers who had no idea that crafting denim was such a complex process this section (along with the section about cutting/sewing/finishing) can inspire a deep appreciation for these blue cotton pants that cover our asses.

Overall Robbins has presented a work that informs and delights in an eyepopping package. More importantly it can serve as a tool that will definitely get the conversation about denim started between you (the denimhead) and your uninitiated guests. So go ahead and judge this book by its cover. Spread the denim love.

More info on where to get your own copy coming soon.

Denim Design Lab Website

More info on

UPDATED: Suggested retail is $100 (it's steal for what you get) and will be available on Barnes and Nobles's website as well as Atrium and Zakka in NYC.

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