Monday, July 26, 2010

A Shot of Inspiration

Are you feeling a bit low on creative energy? A friend just sent me this fantastic video about Raleigh Denim. Founders Sarah and Victor Lytvinenko are the sweetest and most passionate couple in the industry and their hard-working attitude and perseverance inspires all.

Their drive to minimize Raleigh Denim's carbon footprint and revitalize manufacturing in North Carolina has led them to work with the historic mill Cone Denim. Cone's White Oak mill in Greensboro, NC is prominently featured in the video with a rare glimpse at the legendary Draper X3 shuttle looms. These mid-century narrow looms are the only ones still producing selvage denim on the western hemisphere today. They are not only visually very different from Japanese Toyoda shuttle looms but are constructed differently as well.

A more special sighting still is the appearance of Ralph Tharpe, Senior Technical Design Director at Cone Denim. His knowledge of denim design and manufacturing is paralleled by few and his love and knowledge of American denim mills history should earn him a place as a living national treasure.

Raleigh Denim: Handcrafted in North Carolina from David Huppert on Vimeo.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Show Off and Tell

The most anticipated book of the year for denim lovers and vintage collectors comes from Michael Harris of Deadgrass. "Jeans of the Old West: A History" is expected to shed light on a number of legendary but little known workwear brands in the late 1800's in San Francisco. From what I have heard so far the publication is slated to become the important ever written on American overalls history given how little even seasoned vintage collectors know about the rare, non-Levi's denim pieces featured in the book.

Harris has been collecting old denim for some years now and to show off the caliber of treasures he will present in his book he sends us some awe-inspiring pictures. First up is what's left of a jean with the pronouncement of "Spring Bottom," though difficult to see, on what appears to be heavy twill pocketing.

In Harris' own words:
"The pant is most of the left side and fragments of the one back pocket. First picture is the stamped pocket bag. The pocket bag at the top says 'celebrated copper riveted.' Below the last phrase it says 'overalls spring bottom pants.'"

I have not yet had the opportunity to thoroughly study vintage Levi's Spring Bottom Pants but Harris's piece does not resemble the Spring Bottoms I have examined before. The garment pattern, construction and seams do not resemble the typically dandyish, flare-legged, and tailored trousers. Perhaps the pocketing print is simply proclaiming that Levi Strauss & Co. makes both overalls AND Spring Bottom Pants? It is difficult to tell from the pictures of this very dirty and aged garment if the denim is run of the mill Spring Bottoms fabric of which the weft yarn is twisted with a goldish brown or other colored yarn. The next time I visit Los Angeles I will be sure to request examining this fantastic piece.

Jeans of the Old West has just been made available from its publisher Schiffer Books and I can't wait to get my copy.

UPDATED 7/22/10: After some deliberation both Harris and I agree these are in fact not Spring Bottom Pants. Corroborating material is expected to come my way but given that these pants have no spring at the bottom they are definitely not SBP's. We are speculating now these are No. 2's. More on that later, perhaps.