The 23-year-old creative director of Pearly King set up the men’s denim label at 18 and is proud of its innovation, even if he is a control freak.
At 18 lots of young people are sitting exams and going to university, but you launched Pearly King. How did it come about?
My parents [who own Yorkshire-based brand Mish Mash jeans] worked in denim production and all my life I’ve been around denim. So rather than concentrating on school I spent all my life in factories and denim mills, and then I finally decided I wanted to start my own brand.
Where does the name Pearly King come from?
It came from the story of the pearly kings and queens who had old ragged clothes. Then, when a Japanese boat crashed in the Thames and spilt a cargo of pearl buttons, they used them to embellish their rags. It’s about taking something old and breathing new life into it. But I’m not sewing pearl buttons onto everything; it’s just a concept.
A lot of your products are made in-house by hand - are you a bit of a control freak?
I’m a complete control freak, but a lot of the time we do things we’ve not seen elsewhere so you have to come up with it yourself. I do all the first washes myself and spend a lot of my time in the denim development room experimenting. We have a lot of innovative chemical treatments and laundering that not a lot of people have knowledge of in the UK anymore, and I like to blend my own chemicals here too.
What are the strangest experiments you’ve come up with?
We’ve buried jeans, soaked blazers in resin and dry cured them to get a worn look. The worst one I tried was when I dipped jeans in resin and then wore them until they dried, while heating them with a wallpaper stripper at the same time to get the right wear pattern. So obviously there are a few patches of hair on my legs that will never grow back.
You work closely with your parents - how is that?
Don’t work with family! We’re in the same building but on different floors now. It’s nice to be able to trust each other and work together and get a lot of constructive criticism, but it has its bad days. We don’t work as closely now.
You doubled Pearly King’s turnover in 12 months. Did you give yourself a pay rise?
No, I’ve never been given a bonus. It just goes back into the company at the moment.
Will there ever be a Pearly Queen?
We wouldn’t call it that, but we are looking into the idea of launching womenswear, but I want to make Pearly King more or less self-sustaining first.
What about a Pearly King store?
Yes, we are looking at opening a flagship in the UK. I think other brands burn their fingers by getting into retail too soon. I want to partner with someone who knows what they’re doing first, rather than doing it all by myself.
What’s the best thing about denim?
Its versatility. It’s been around for so long and people have found so many ways to manipulate it, that’s the beauty. And that it moulds and grows with you rather than just being another thing off the line. It will look more beautiful with age.
And the worst?
Probably all the chemicals I work with.
What has been the worst denim trend over the years?
The over-embellished baggy trend of the early 2000s - that’s something we can do without. Also the super-skinny isn’t great either.
So what’s your favourite jeans fit?
Pearly King has a fit called the Jagger slim-fit which is just a classic slim-fit, nothing too skinny, no bulging crotches.
What’s your favourite pair of jeans?
The first pair of Pearly King Jagger jeans we ever made. It was the first pattern we drew in-house. I still have that first pair, folded up on my desk in my office.
If you could only wear one brand for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Considering I work in denim, I love a good suit, so other than Pearly King I prefer to wear tailored garments. Always Tom Ford.
Your collections are often inspired by music - what are the most played albums on your iPod?
All the Rolling Stones’ stuff and anything from that era, even a bit of 1980s metal. The Rolling Stones is definitely where we get a lot of inspiration from.
Who, alive or dead, would you like to see wearing Pearly King?
It would be anyone from the Rolling Stones of course, if you can still call them alive.