“Typically, the most popular denims in the world are going to be a 3-by-one right-hand twill weave, 10 to 12 ounces, red cast (vs. green cast), and – right now – vertical slubs as opposed to cross hatch,” Scott Morrison said, standing before a wall of selvedge denim factory in his SoHo store, 3×1. He was not speaking in tongues; he was in brief the language of denim. Morrison grew up in Rancho Mirage, California, played golf as being a kid, went to the University of Washington to try out golf on a scholarship, drew up a business plan in college to launch a golf company, then finally transferred to Ny in 1997 and started in on denim.
He arrived at the party on the right time. “I remember going and buying a couple of Replay Jeans and studying the inside and going, ‘Holy shit, what exactly is Produced in Japan? Japanese Denim? Japanese Wash?’ They were $125, which at that time was $25 higher priced than every other product they were making.” This is an advantageous enlightenment; through the late ’90s – Morrison places it around 1999 – onward, premium denim continues to be booming. What started with Earl Jean, Frankie B and his awesome Paper Denim & Cloth then moved into 7 For All Mankind, JBrand, True Religion. Then the wave really caught on and leading approximately the present premium denim companies have started ad infinitum.
Back in 1999, Morrison and Ken Girard, head of Cone Mills product development, traveled to Japan. Morrison claimed that at that time, the Cone Mills selvedge shuttle looms in North Carolina were still. Selvedge, or “self-edge” denim (so named for your tightly woven band on the end of sheet of denim), was the classic kind of denim – “it’s the record player of the denim industry,” said Morrison – and Cone Mills is probably the founding fathers from the fabric. Starting in 1891, they were a premier fabric manufacturer, and through the early and mid-1900s, they made only one kind of denim: selvedge denim on shuttle looms. But as technology evolved and also the economy demanded faster, cheaper denim, the brand new rapier, projectile and air jet looms took over production.
When Morrison and Girard headed to Japan, no person was ordering the slower, more costly selvedge denim jeans. “At time, the large brands, Gap, J.Crew, Esprit, Levis, Lee, Wrangler – every one of the American brands were centered on this moderate price point.”What Morrison seen in Japan were mills focusing on premium denim of the sort North America once made. He remembers it being better throughout the board, from fabrics to sewing to wash. Plus it left an impact. “My dogs were named after Japanese denim mills – Kurabo and Nishimbo. I had been a little obsessed, as you would expect.”
Following that trip, Morrison’s travels in Japan (as well as in Italy) continued, as did his study of premium denim manufacturing. He believed he wasn’t the only person who’d buy into this domestically born, internationally perfected practice. Morrison’s idea – shared by a couple other premium denim companies at that time – ended up being to bring this quality back to American jeans. “The premise was, why can’t we all do the same in the States?” said Morrison. He did, however it didn’t catch on immediately. He says his first two forays into offering selvedge denim failed miserably; customers weren’t ready for $250 jeans. He remembers that things which we take for granted on jeans today – oven baking, 3D-whiskering, hand sanding, bleach sponging – didn’t even exist till the early aughts. But Morrison held his vision, and thru two companies, Paper Denim & Cloth and Earnest Sewn, Morrison evolved with America’s fascination with premium denim.
Finally, this year, he started 3×1, his most specialized project to date. 3×1, supplies the largest selection of selvedge denim in the world. They have, at any moment, 70 rolls of selvedge on their own “denim wall,” and through the years have introduced more than 1000 several types of selvedge denim, sourced from 22 different mills around the world. “The denim luhoxj the mills are the rockstars of the shop,” Morrison said. 3×1 specializes in specialty, and they also meet the needs of a distinct, particular client. “I know our customer is the one guy that’ll walk in and become like, ‘That’s fu.cking awesome, that’s the things i want,’” said Morrison.
To reach that point takes a bit of education. And without digging from the annals of denim geek forums, it will take a little bit of translating. So, Morrison accessible to give a lay of the selvedge land – an introduction to what to consider when buying premium denim.