As his first UK store opens, the founder of premium jeans brand Denham tells Laura Weir where denim trends are heading.
Why did you set up Denham?
I wanted to create something where people would say ‘fuck me, I’ve got to have a pair of these jeans’.
What does a pair of jeans need to provoke that reaction? It’s the balance of everything. We have a design mantra that is ‘worship tradition and destroy convention’, which sounds like a lot of blah blah. But if you look at the trends, everyone is following vintage, and that’s a sort or worshipping tradition - we do that too. But I also like to have modernity in the product.
So you’re not restricted by your heritage and an archive like other brands?
We have a huge collection of products that inspire us. It includes traditional costume, Chinese workwear, all kinds of stuff, and we always use it as
a starting point but then we move it on. Product is rooted in history and jeanswear culture but then we have technical, special product.
Why do you think the UK is ready for a brand such as Denham?
What is happening in the UK right now is exciting. Street style is livelier than ever and guys have started wearing clothing that actually fits them, and that’s exciting.
That must be especially true for a tailoring enthusiast like you - the Denham logo is a pair of scissors. I look back and think what was everybody doing with all that anti-fit stuff?
I see people now who haven’t caught on and I react a bit like their mother and think ‘put something on that fits you’. Men come into the store and do the same as women, turning around to check their bum in the mirror.
You are a premium-priced product in a highly competitive denim market. Has there been any resistance to price from buyers?
We’re selling in premium accounts, and we’re equally proud of making a £400 jean as we are of our £120 jean. It’s at that price point where there is an opportunity in the market. We make honest product that has longevity.
How are the trends in the denim market shifting?
Technical interest is rising up - the high street has jumped on vintage now and that means it’s done. Technicality and modernity is important for the next phase. There is a transition going on. People really care about how they spend their money. The [denim] giants will always be there and they are great brands that I have huge respect for, but the customer makes the call.
Who inspires you?
Adriano Goldschmied is a legend. In the early 1980s he created denim agency The Genius Troupe, which changed the geography of the denim business. He put brands like Diesel and Replay on the map. [Designer] François Girbaud was the first to break the convention of two legs and five pockets. He was brave enough to do things differently. Also, Nigel Cabourn - I never met a guy so passionate about product. I hope I have the same energy when I get to his age.
What was the last thing you bought?
A vintage indigo Japanese fishing bag. It’s indigo rope dyed and knitted into a fishing net. The colours are amazing. It’s hanging in our Amsterdam store’s window.
Why do you love denim so much?
There’s no other fabric like it. The possibilities are endless and the technology in indigo dying and weaving techniques is gaining momentum every day.
What is your proudest moment?
Opening the London store (pictured) has to be close, but my biggest moment was being invited to the Godfather of Denim event during Bread & Butter. I was invited to the same table as my heroes Adriano Goldschmied, François Girbaud and Pierre Morisette.
Jason Denham is the founder of premium denim brand Denham, which this month opened its first UK store on Charlotte Road, east London