There's really no question about it: Denim is taking over. From the fall magazine covers to the racks in retail stores, denim is set to make one of its biggest pushes ever this fall. That's pretty big news for a fabric.
But the one area of denim products that is always hard to find is vintage jeans. Despite the fact that models, editors and bloggers are constantly singing the praises of a good, banged-up jean bought secondhand, there hasn't really been a better way to buy vintage jeans than to spend hours scouring flea markets, vintage stores and yard sales. Enter Re/Dun, a new denim brand from fashion entrepreneurs Sean Barron and Jamie Mazur.
Launched on Monday with 50 pairs of jeans, the brand sources vintage Levi's and recuts them into two styles: relaxed straight and straight skinny. The jeans retain all the awesomeness of a vintage pair -- the rips, tears, stains and whiskers -- but have the fit of a modern pair of jeans. So, yes, if you are a denim junkie, this is probably the best news you've heard in years. And even if you're not, now might be your time to test the waters because it seems like the worn-in denim trend is here to stay. Even though the site only launched on Monday, it already has a big-time following – most styles sold out in a matter of hours.
Not convinced that vintage denim is your thing yet? Let Barron and Mazur convince you themselves.
How did Re/Dun com about and how did you know this would be something worth investing in?
Jamie Mazur: I've collected vintage Levi's my entire life, since I first discovered them in my late teens. I love the washes on them, but I never really liked the way they fit because they were just wide-legged, non-flattering and high-waisted old jeans from the '50s and '60s. At a certain point I discovered these special denim tailors that you could take them to, and basically they'll fit them to your body and make them fit like modern jeans.
One day I was with Sean – and Sean has been in the apparel industry for a very long time and has been very successful – and we started talking about, "Could we do this [remake vintage jeans] at a regular production level, like in a factory, as opposed to one pair at a time?" Sean believed that he could, and that's kind of how we ended up here. We wanted to do something online and we didn't want to be in the wholesale business.
Sean Barron: The other thing, when you go out to buy vintage jeans as an individual, you chose them and you like whatever pattern was on them already. Currently what I'm seeing from the brands that are in the [denim] space today, every jean looks the same. They have the holes in the same spot and the same whiskers that are fake. I just think that women today want to become more individual and have have their own individual curation when they buy a pair of jeans -- or anything for that matter. And the response has been -- we sold out in the first five hours. There are more coming in a week.
Where are you sourcing the original jeans from?
SB: Basically Jamie is our buyer and our curator because he really loves the vintage jeans. We are cutting deals with rag houses, and we work with them all over the country. I mean we really choose the jeans -- we curate them first and the customer curates them themselves.
Jamie, are there certain features that you look for in vintage jeans that you think are especially relevant to the market today?
JM: I think the cool thing is to have a variety of jeans. There are ones that are super-light and faded, there are ones that are dark, but someone obviously wore them a lot and didn't wash them often. To me, those are the coolest ones, where they're still kind of dark, but right in the crotch area you see all the whiskering. But everyone has their own personal favorite of what they think they want to wear. That's what we do.
We have all the different shades from light to dark to medium to dark with lots of fading in certain areas to, you know, one's from someone who smoked cigarettes and had a pack in the front pocket and you can see the outline and other ones that had a wallet mark in the back. A lot of ones we get are really cool because they ripped and someone did their own home repair, so they have some cool stitching. Each pair really is one of a kind and has its own characteristics.
On the site what we did that's really unique is we show what the fit looks like on a model but then the girl gets to go into her size and we'll populate the 15 to 20 pairs we have in inventory that fit that description and she can see images of each pair front and back and she'll pick the one that she likes. Each jean gets a serial number and we send her that actual jean.
SB: It's 100 percent curated by the customer.
How are the jeans reconstructed?
JM: Instead of us ordering fabric from a denim mill, we're basically using the vintage jeans as our fabric. We take them apart and use the denim as you would make new jeans: We use a pattern, we recut them, and then they get sewn back together. Then on the seams, because we have new seams on half of the jeans, we do a slight hand abrasion, so it looks like it's original, like it's an old seam. That's basically what we do. We're just using the old jeans as our fabric to make new jeans.
SB: The other thing we do is we separate the jeans in terms of how soft they are versus rigid for better fit, so the softer ones are more for the relaxed ones and then the not as soft, that have more structure, we use them for the skinnies. We really go though each pair of jeans – we've touched every pair of jeans whether it's 100 units or 1,000 units.
That sounds like a lot of work.
JM: For me the most fun part is, as we get them and as we sort them, seeing the unique characteristics of each. One out of every three [pairs] is like, "Oh my god this is the most beautiful pair of jeans I've ever seen. Who's going to get this pair?" Half of them you don't even want to sell, you just want to create an archive of these amazing jeans. But the funny thing is we just keep finding more and more and more because every single day the rag house is getting thousands of thousands of pairs of new vintage jeans that are available to us and other people.
And one of the amazing things to me is that when people think of vintage Levi's, if you're a vintage Levi's person, you think of '70s, '60s, '80s, redlines, big Es, and all these different terms that are for collectibility, but some of the most beautiful ones I've seen are from the 2000s that were probably purchased at a Walmart by some construction worker, and because the guy wore them in so well for so long, they have the most beautiful wash on them. They don't have to be from the '80s, '70s or '60s to be amazing – it's how much the person who wore them beat them up is it's own unique characteristic.
Do you think that distressed, worn-in denim is a trend or does it have real staying power?
SB: I don't think the particular concept of vintage, worn jeans goes in or out of style, it's just a constant. Sometimes there are darker ones and sometimes there are ones with holes. Right now, we put a lot of ones with holes [on the site] because we feel that the holes and the destruction is trending, but we don't have to have those. If the trend changes, people still want vintage jeans, they might want less destruction.
JM: I don't think it's the destruction that changes, I think it's the fit of jeans that changes. One minute girls want them lose, next minute super-skinny, then they want them high, then low, then flared, and the good news is, we can do all that. We're starting with the best canvas you could start with, which is already broken-in jeans. If the trend goes dark, we'll start working with more dark washes, but I feel it's all timeless.
How did you reach the $200 price point for the jeans on the site?
JM: One of the most exciting things about what we're doing, besides it being so special, is the value proposition. For a woman to go and find a pair of vintage jeans at a flea market that she actually likes, she'd have to go to two or three flea markets or vintages stores, then she finally finds a pair. Then she has to go to a denim tailor, which finding a good denim tailor is hard and they are usually super busy or backed up. To do a complete recut, which is what this would be called at a denim tailor, they're going to charge you 200 bucks just to do the recut. So that's 200 bucks, plus the time to find the jeans, the cost of the jeans and all the headache. So if you buy them from us, you don't have all that headache.
If we were wholesaling to stores, these jeans would have to retail for like $400 to $450, so that's why we're doing this [online]. And it's a much easier shopping experience. Rather than having to go to four stores that carry our stuff, you can just go on our site and see everything.
Do you have plans to expand out of just women's or do collaborations?
JM: We're definitely going to do men's because we've already started playing with it. I mean, as a man, I've done a few pair for myself and I'm obsessed with it, and every guy that I tell about the project is like, "When are you doing men's?"
SB: So the short answer is that we're going to go into it, but I think for the moment we have to keep our eye on the ball and deliver the best women's jeans possible for the time being. But in our minds we're thinking about what the next step is, and we'll keep you posted on those.