Tuesday, January 26, 2010

New Kicking Mule Workshop

I capped off last week by catching up with Patrick Goodspeed who runs the re:change showroom in NYC which represents brands like Kicking Mule Workshop, Left Field, Triple Works, and Real Japan Blues. We sat down with his wine and my Nat Sherman MCD smokes to talk denim. There are better ways to spend Friday night but I cannot think of many.

He showed me the new jean of Kicking Mule Workshop, a well loved brand carried by stockists like Oak, AB Fits, Odin, Revolve, United Arrows, and many more. The new model is called the 1980 and boasts some interesting features. Note: the particular 1980 jean featured in this post has been through a quick rinse but raw will be offered.

The fabric is a Japanese, heavy weight, natural indigo, organic cotton, left hand twill, selvage denim. It can be prominently shown off with a cuff as the busted side seams measure 1.75". This will make for quite a wide traintrack, sideseam fade.

Selvage fly.

Alloy hardware.

Hand hammered rivets. The exposed selvage coin pocket.

Beltloops inserted into waistband with very prominent ridge between stitches. They will wear in very nicely.

Deer skin leather patch.

Hidden back pocket rivets. Half lined back pockets.

Selvage runs all the way up to waistband.

For the full experience we recommend checking out the new Kicking Mule Workshop jean in person when it arrives in stores later this year.

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Thursday, January 21, 2010

A Gift of Jeans by Roy Slaper

One of the great pleasures of working for a historic mill like Cone is being able to meet people like Roy Slaper. This post is a small introduction to Roy and the jeans he wishes were perfect.

There is a talented metalsmith in Oakland, California who has been perfecting his denim sewing skills the last few years. Although Roy Slaper is quite good already he insists on practicing until he can consider himself to be in that unique class of denim designer-tailors expert in patterns, needlework, materials, and a thousand other nuances in crafting jeans. Such is the way of a true lover of denim who will forever be fascinated by all matters indigo and so will never call oneself a master of the subject.

I too count myself in this group of life-long denim students and have been exchanging peculiar ideas with him for many months. When I decided to leave my station at Cone my wonderful colleagues there commissioned a jean for me with Roy, who knew exactly want I would want (something with all the loom chatter intact like deadstock vintage).

As I am wearing the jean and typing this post I am still perplexed by how he managed to get it to fit right in one shot.

All crucial details are on point.

Selvage belt loops. And yes it does have a raised ridge between the stitches.

Some would stop at selvage beltloops but Roy quietly sneaks in selvage back pockets via busted seam joining 2 pieces.

And then he puts in selvage busted seam pocketing using an undyed organic cotton twill. When you hold up the jeans the selvage seams of the pocket bags and the back pockets line up one in front of the other.

He incorporates the loom chatter that naturally occurs in denim woven on vintage American selvage looms.

The fabric is full of unique, uneven character that by today's quality standards would be called defects. But using the word defect to argue against the beauty of certain loom chatters is akin to using higher fabric consumption as an argument against narrow selvage denim. The arguments make sense but love is blind. Besides, a broken fill here and there is nothing compared to the yarns destruction during industrial stonewash and sandblasting. This is how unwashed workwear came back in the day.

And maybe one day, sooner rather than later hopefully, Roy will finally let the general public enjoy his denim creations. Until then he will be perfecting his craft and acquiring amazing sewing machines like the Union Special 43200G bulldog hemmer, Union Special felling machine, and Reece 101 buttonhole machines that he have already.

A very special thanks to my friends at Cone Denim.

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Friday, January 15, 2010

Mark Mango

One of the challenges of stonewashing jeans is that pumice stones are very abrasive and can do serious damage to washing machines. Commercial laundries utilize large industrial machines with drums made to withstand these wash processes. The capital investment required is one of the reasons why denim washing has long been the high-stakes territory of larger factory-sized laundries. Add to it environmental regulations, hiring technicians, administrators, mechanics, etc and it becomes obvious that it is simply not cheap to start and run a wash house.

Well for some time now a resourceful Mark Mango has been servicing denim designers in the NY area with his DIY drum tumbling machines. He does everything in small batches for tight control. Check out the video of one in action below. It really is quite interesting. He adds to the formula hand sanding, abrasion, tinting, pigment painting and rust treatments to provide hand-detailed finishes.


www.MarkMango.com | MySpace Video

Of course many questions come up like how does he control the temperature, and pH, and how does he affect the load mid-cycle. To be honest, I do not know but I have seen beautifully finished garments in person from him so he must be doing something right.

Mark Mango is based in NY/NJ area.

Mark Mango Website

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Introducing TENDER Co.

What is this? A new indigo-centric concern to be excited about, you say? True. A gentleman by the name of William Kroll is launching TENDER Co. and its collection of English produced selvage jeans, tees and jackets dip dyed in veggie indigo and Norfolk woad.

I will post more pictures and information as I check out the line and learn more.

For now here is a picture of Mr. Kroll overdyeing a desized denim garment in South American veggie indigo in the UK.

TENDER Co. Website

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Sunday, January 03, 2010

Skine Deep

Some people carry budging wallets. Since my college days I have carried a Moleskine brand notebook in my back pockets. This has the pleasant side effect of a beautiful fade mark on raw jeans.

Many Moleskines later I have begun to feel that for the price I pay for these notebooks the quality leaves something to be desired. By the time I am through with half the pages the cover has begun to tear unflatteringly. Sometimes the cover would even disconnect from the binded paper due to the stress of being sat on (an effective compromise is to use the reporter style Moleskine where the spine usually lies above the pocket opening and avoids direct pressure).

The bit of marketing gimmick Moleskine uses to sell its notebooks also leaves me feeling a bit uneasy. It should be kept in mind that the term moleskine was originally an un-trademarked word used by Bruce Chatwin in his 1986 book The Songlines to describe unbranded little black notebooks popular with artists and writers in late 19th to early 20th centuries. That means any little black notebook with similar features carries the "heritage" that Moleskine associates its products with. You have other options if you really want your notebook to resemble "the legendary notebook used by artists and thinkers over the past two centuries: among them Vincent van Gogh, Pablo Picasso, Ernest Hemingway, and Bruce Chatwin. A trusted and handy travel companion, the nameless black notebook held invaluable sketches, notes, stories, and ideas that would one day become famous paintings or the pages of beloved books." (from Moleskine website)

I recently discovered a number of fantastic pocket notebooks through the wonderfully impassioned Black Cover blog, which reviews all sorts of Moleskine-esque products. After trying out a couple of them I find that the French-made Rhodia Webnotebook is the superior Moleskine alternative for those who keep notebooks in the back pocket of their jeans.

The Rhodia's cover is made of Italian leatherette (no animals harmed; only trees). Compared to Moleskine's fragile oilcloth the Rhodia takes a beating much more gracefully. The latter also boasts 192 pages of beautiful, super smooth, fountain-pen-grade 90 gsm paper made by the Clairefontaine mill, which has been producing paper since 1858 in France. In a phrase this is the 14 oz selvage denim of pocket notebook paper.

Alas all this comes with a price. Without much searching one can find the Rhodia Webnotebook selling for about $15. Though not cheap the Rhodia is still affordable enough to allow for changing notebooks every few months. To go one step up you can go for the the leather bound Cartesio from Florence, which goes for about $20. If an upgrade is not what you are looking for then lower priced "mole clones" are abound. You can check out reviews of The Picadilly Notebook ($5 retail), The Color Edge Notebook ($3), and more at Black Cover.

A pocket folder is pretty useful for my purposes. Should that not be the case for you then consider products by Rite in the Rain, waterproof notebooks popular with field engineers, birdwatchers, volcano scientists, and adventurers around the world. I have personally dropped some Field Notes books in a rainstorm and the result is not pretty.

The answer to this is a $3 Rite in the Rain notebook, which comes with measurement conversion tables and rulers printed on the covers. I have found myself using these on more than one occasion with my Field Notes books.

Another functional notebook is the Stifflexible with 72 pages of fountain-pen-friendly paper by Tuscany based Giuliano Mazzuoli. The special cover was made to be sturdy but flexible enough to open and allow one hand page flipping. This is particularly handy when needing to quickly find your notes while multitasking. The design is apparently based on a special book from the 1700s.

Although the cover appears to be very hardy I am not sure how well the paper material will hold up in my back pocket.

If collecting pocket notebooks has an appealing ring then go check out your local vintage store for finds. I recently acquired a vintage Cream of Wheat leather notebook with a changeable paper pad and a slot for a business card.

Vintage Cream of Wheat Notebook
Rite in the Rain #954T
Rhodia Webnotebook

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