Jason Denham, founder of the premium jeans brand Denham, has spoken with The SPIN OFF, about some of his present time vision and his brand’s newest projects, including its 15th anniversary coming soon.
How do you see the present moment?
This time is extremely challenging and so full of unexpected events. When we were in the middle of the corona crisis, I told myself: “If we are going to survive all this, we will survive everything.” We went through it, but other problems came over immediately after like scarcity of raw materials, huge increases in transportations and energy costs, and a war… There have been lots of difficulties but also challenges, and we have been learning much from this time.
We are learning every day as a brand. After corona, the world changed, and it changed in many ways. One of the good things about that is that everybody learned to be local again.
After the pandemic, the Italian became more Italian and the Japanese became more Japanese. And because there wasn’t tourism, everybody had to cater for tourism. The food became more local, the taste became more local, and I think this has been a good thing as what we learned with our brands is “Give the local market what they want”.
For this, for instance, in Japan, which is one of our main markets, we established a team and a full operation designing their own products and making their own brand. And we did the same thing in China, another main market for us. So we are now learning how to be really active in the local market. Therefore, we have also started collaborations in Japan with local Japanese brands only for that specific market. And the same happened in China. And that’s exciting. It’s good to bring this kind of energy in the local market.
Can you make any examples?
In Japan, for instance, we are making a collaboration with Guidi Boots, a footwear brand which we were requested by our Japan team. We also have a collaboration with Grivec Brothers, a Made in The Netherlands brand - the only Made in the Netherlands jeans brand from the country made in their atelier. Plus we have just launched a collaboration with Converse.
We have a lot of coming up.
In my company we design four collections a year – spring, summer, fall and winter. Obviously, what we like to do–and our core business, of course, – is denim, but we have set up two divisions: one is not called “Cause Guest Artist” and we are now launching our guest artist collection n. 22.
The other division we have is the Collaboration Division. We have also created a dedicated team for that. We did a lot of collaborations like the one with Nike, and we have many more coming up. The current one is with Aspesi, which is great.
How did that start?
The reason why we did this collaboration is that we love Italy and there is a great connection with Italy and Made in Italy. I love the purity of their product, which is very clean and very well-made, plus they have a huge history with shirting – in fact we did some great shirting with them for this collaboration…
Yes we did. It was super nice, we had a great collaboration project developed together. Each of us poured its part and expertise in this project. We did what we can do best, though each can also learn from the other. We designed and worked on the product together - which I think is very important. It’s not enough to put a name on a product, and that’s it. We worked very hard on the material choice, on the silhouettes and everything we did. And it has been very well received, too.
How do you decide what collaborations you want to make?
We are trying to start collaborations with brands that can complement each other, and Aspesi was a good complementary project.
When we collaborated with Nike in the past, they did the sportswear part of the collaboration, as we don’t do it. Instead, we brought them our knowledge in denim and other materials. So a new collaboration has to be meaningful, and we want to be exciting for the consumer. We want them to see something, and we want the consumer to say: “I’ve never seen this before”. So it can be a collaboration that brings together accessories, or watches or sportswear anything, or luxury…which is also super nice to us.
Sometimes they are, sometimes they are not. Aspesi, for instance, could continue… There is always room for that.
What other new project are you working at, apart from the ones your company’s two divisions are working on?
Next year it will be a big year for us as Denham will hit its 15th anniversary. For special anniversaries, you know, we love to celebrate. For this, we are planning a lot of things for next year. Every season there will be a celebration in 2023. We will have celebration collections, celebration collaborations and all kinds of stuff.
I think most of the offer was very much the same, without showing many novelties. I already work with my suppliers and some of them are no longer participating here. Plus, everyone is trying to offer sustainable products, but the best way to reduce one’s own carbon footprint is to operate in the different markets, source fabrics and produce locally, in order to stay near to the final consumer, avoid spending huge quantities of money for shipments and fuel and produce lots of emissions.
Therefore, for the European market we use Italian fabrics (mostly Candiani Denim), source in Italy through C&S and wash at Elleti. For Japan, we do the same as we use local fabrics and local manufacturers and similarly for China. I think this is the best approach when thinking to act sustainably.
Seventy percent of what we produce in Europe stays in Europe, and similarly in other main market areas. I think this is the best approach when thinking to act sustainably. We really feel strongly that the right thing to do.
We do that as a brand already any day. We have a policy in all of our stores where you bring back your old jeans in our stores, and we have started a PCR denim concept together with Candiani.
We collect all of our jeans that comeback to our strores and send all the jeans at the end of the season to Candiani. They shred them, and they remake a new fabric out of them. Then, every season we do a special limited edition of jeans made with our raw denims obtained by recycling our secondhand jeans.
Every real jeans that we make and that comes back to our store as a “PCR Recycled Selvedge" Denham jeans. We always do these things.
For me, this is responsibility. I hate to blow big marketing stories always on sustainability because when you walk around here at Kingpins I always see sustainability which is great, but it’s boring because it is my job to do it anyway. That’s what I have to do, and I love to do that.
That’s what we need to do. I think it is more exciting saying that I love with Aspesi, an Italian brand, or a Japanese one.