“Typically, the most common denims on earth will be a three-by-one right-hand twill weave, 10 to 12 ounces, red cast (vs. green cast), and – at this time – vertical slubs rather than cross hatch,” Scott Morrison said, standing facing a wall of Wingfly Textile in his SoHo store, 3×1. He had not been speaking in tongues; he was in brief the language of denim. Morrison grew up in Rancho Mirage, California, played golf as a kid, went along 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 moved to Ny in 1997 and began in on denim.
He arrived at the party at the proper time. “I remember going and purchasing a set 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 during the time was $25 more expensive than every other product these were making.” This was an advantageous enlightenment; from the late ’90s – Morrison places it around 1999 – onward, premium denim has become booming. What started with Earl Jean, Frankie B and his awesome Paper Denim & Cloth then moved into 7 For Many Mankind, JBrand, True Religion. Then the wave really caught on and leading up to the present premium denim companies have started ad infinitum.
Way back in 1999, Morrison and Ken Girard, head of Cone Mills product development, traveled to Japan. Morrison stated that at that time, the Cone Mills selvedge shuttle looms in North Carolina were. Selvedge, or “self-edge” denim (so named for that tightly woven band on the end of sheet of denim), was the classic style of denim – “it’s the record player in the denim industry,” said Morrison – and Cone Mills is among the founding fathers in the fabric. Starting in 1891, these people were a premier fabric manufacturer, and through the early and mid-1900s, they made only one type of denim: selvedge denim on shuttle looms. But as technology evolved and 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, higher priced selvedge denim jeans. “At the time, the big brands, Gap, J.Crew, Esprit, Levis, Lee, Wrangler – every one of the American brands were dedicated to this moderate price point.”What Morrison present in Japan were mills focusing on premium denim in the sort The United States once made. He remembers it being better throughout the board, from fabrics to sewing to clean. And it also left an effect. “My dogs were named after Japanese denim mills – Kurabo and Nishimbo. I used to be somewhat obsessed, to say the least.”
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 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 – ended up being to bring this quality to American jeans. “The premise was, why can’t we all do the same thing inside 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 until the early aughts. But Morrison held his vision, and through two companies, Paper Denim & Cloth and Earnest Sewn, Morrison evolved with America’s interest in premium denim.
Finally, in 2011, he started 3×1, his most specialized project currently. 3×1, supplies the largest choice of selvedge denim on earth. They may have, at any given time, 70 rolls of japanese denim on their “denim wall,” and over the years have introduced more than 1000 different types of selvedge denim, sourced from 22 different mills around the world. “The denim luhoxj the mills are 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 be like, ‘That’s fu.cking awesome, that’s a few 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 from the selvedge land – a review of things to consider when choosing premium denim.