“Typically, the most popular denims in the world will be a 3-by-one right-hand twill weave, 10 to 12 ounces, red cast (vs. green cast), and – at this time – vertical slubs instead of cross hatch,” Scott Morrison said, standing facing a wall of heavyweight selvedge denim in his SoHo store, 3×1. He had not been speaking in tongues; he was simply speaking 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, drafted a business plan in college to launch a golf company, then finally moved to New York City in 1997 and began in on denim.
He arrived at the party at the right time. “I remember going and purchasing a couple of Replay Jeans and studying the inside and going, ‘Holy shit, what exactly is Manufactured in Japan? Japanese Denim? Japanese Wash?’ These people were $125, which at the time was $25 higher priced than any other product these were making.” This was an advantageous enlightenment; from the late ’90s – Morrison places it around 1999 – onward, premium denim has been booming. What started with Earl Jean, Frankie B and his awesome Paper Denim & Cloth then moved into 7 For Those Mankind, JBrand, True Religion. Then your wave really caught on and leading as much as the present premium denim companies have started ad infinitum.
In 1999, Morrison and Ken Girard, head of Cone Mills product development, traveled to Japan. Morrison said that at that time, the Cone Mills selvedge shuttle looms in N . C . were still. Selvedge, or “self-edge” denim (so named for the tightly woven band on the end of sheet of denim), was the classic kind of denim – “it’s the record player from the denim industry,” said Morrison – and Cone Mills is probably the founding fathers from the fabric. Starting in 1891, these people were a premier fabric manufacturer, and through the early and mid-1900s, they made only one sort of denim: selvedge denim on shuttle looms. But as technology evolved and also the economy demanded faster, cheaper denim, the newest rapier, projectile and air jet looms took over production.
When Morrison and Girard headed to Japan, no one was ordering the slower, more costly japanese selvedge denim. “At enough 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 found in Japan were mills concentrating on premium denim from the sort North America once made. He remembers it being better across 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 used to be a bit obsessed, to put it mildly.”
After that trip, Morrison’s travels in Japan (and also in Italy) continued, as did his study of premium denim manufacturing. He believed he wasn’t the only one who’d buy into this domestically born, internationally perfected practice. Morrison’s idea – shared by only a couple other premium denim companies at the time – would be to bring this quality to American jeans. “The premise was, why can’t we do the same thing inside the States?” said Morrison. He did, but it didn’t catch on right away. He says his initial 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 through two companies, Paper Denim & Cloth and Earnest Sewn, Morrison evolved with America’s fascination with premium denim.
Finally, in the year 2011, he started 3×1, his most specialized project up to now. 3×1, supplies the largest collection of selvedge denim in the world. They have got, at any given time, 70 rolls of selvedge on their own “denim wall,” and through the years have introduced a lot more than 1000 various kinds of selvedge denim, sourced from 22 different mills around the globe. “The denim luhoxj the mills are definitely the rockstars from the shop,” Morrison said. 3×1 focuses on specialty, and they also meet the needs of a distinct, particular client. “I know our customer will be the one guy that’ll walk in and stay like, ‘That’s fu.cking awesome, that’s the things i want,’” said Morrison.
To access that point takes a little bit of education. And without digging through the annals of denim geek forums, it takes a bit of translating. So, Morrison accessible to provide a lay of the selvedge land – a review of what to consider when purchasing premium denim.