We are all familiar with the recognizable indigo textile made famous by Levi Strauss in the 1850s, these were hard wearing workman trousers now affectionately known as ‘jeans’. Today I’m talking about the denim artisan culture that has made a huge comeback in recent years, not so big is South Africa, but fast gaining momentum. Denim used to be made raw and unwashed in its early days, and now we are seeing manufactures going back to their roots and producing denim in its purest form. This indigo textile has gone through all kinds of processing, mixed with all sorts of textiles such as Lycra to manipulate the form. It is one of the most versatile and resilient textiles out there, and has without a doubt stood the test of time.
The raw denim culture is one that I have immersed myself into so much so that I can no longer look at jeans in the same way. These artisan jeans are cut and made up without the processing. The beauty of raw denims is that through the natural wear and tear process, they are molded according to your shape, and the appeal of having your jeans gradually fade on their own makes the process that much more worth it. If you are thinking of getting into raw denims here are a few pointers to start your denim journey.
The denim you choose should obviously be raw and unwashed, this means it was not washed after the indigo dying process. Raw denim specialty brands use the best kind, which is usually Japanese or American denim. The jeans should also be cut on a selvage. If you are going to invest in raw jeans its best you get one with a selvage. This also looks super cool in a turn-up, and the denim snobs will notice.
Raw denims do cost a pretty penny, that’s when you realize this is more than just jeans, its art! okay maybe i’m being a little too dramatic. Just be prepared to dig a little deeper for a good pair of Raws, it really is worth it. One of my favorite shopping missions when traveling abroad is finding a good pair!
BREAKING THEM IN
The beauty of raw denim is the ‘breaking them’ in process. You buy them solid and unwashed, then they will take your shape, and start fading in utility areas such as thighs, knees, pockets and ankles. The fading process is organic, and that’s what I love about it. This natural fading process creates unique patterns of wear, that will become your individual denim fingerprint. You will have a totally different looking pair in a years time from your very first wear.
Raw jeans are not washed as often as you would regular jeans, twice a year is probably enough, yep you heard me only twice a year, unless you spill a glass of red wine on it and its urgent. Otherwise wear them, and hang them out at a dry and airy place. I hang mine on a hook outside my wardrobe, and every now and then hang it in the sun. Detailed care information; http://www.oki-ni.com/features/raw-denim-care-guide
WHERE TO SHOP
South Africa’s raw denim game is still in its early days, so most of my suggestions will be online store guides to great Raw denim jeans.
1. The Jungle – Jan Smuts Ave, Craighall (sells LEE Jeans raw denim)
2. Loading Bay – 30 Hudson St, De Waterkant Cape Town (Blueblood Dry goods)
3. Brooklyn Denim Co – http://brooklyndenimco.com/ (they stock a lot of raw denim brands)
Hoping to see more raws on the streets of Joburg!
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