How I Created A True British Made Jean
Do you wanna know how Joe & Co was finally able to create a bona fide British Made Jean?
It is a journey that’s been many years in the making – they say patience is a virtue!
“All things come to those who wait”
Our History in Denim
I've been producing men’s denim jeans for over 35 years. During that time, we’ve used manufactures in Turkey and Portugal. But in the last 10 years I've moved to sourcing fabrics from the likes of Italy and Japan, shipping the fabric back to England and using English based manufactures to construct our men's jeans.
Now, I'm proud to say that my men’s jeans are British Made. But what I really wanted to do was create a true 100% British Made Selvedge Denim Jean. The fabric and the manufacturing - All British Made!
But when you consider that the British Textile industry has been in steady decline since the 1980’s. This was going to be easier said than done.
How I overcame the decline of the British Textile Industry
A chance meeting at a Denim Trade Show gave us hope that we might possibly be able to pull this off.
I got talking to guy who not only shared our passion for denim, but also my desire to bring denim fabric production back to the UK. He shared his plans to use two 1940's vintage Northrop Shuttle Looms to produce a Whiteline British Raw Selvedge Denim Fabric. And, what’s more he was going to do it in Lancashire, which was once the beating heart of the British Textile industry.
This meeting of minds took place some 5 years ago. And, since then the business has faced many challenges along the way. Not least because, of the decline of the British textile industry, meant there was a shortage of skills, experience, and technology.
But they stayed true to their goal, and in 2016 they started production of British Raw Selvedge.
Whilst patience is a virtue, you have to persevere!
“Things may come to those who wait, but only the things left by those who hustle”
About the Northrop Shuttle Loom
Not least because this particular shuttle loom was originally invented by an Englishman, James Henry Northrop. The Northrop shuttle loom also played a major role in British Textile and the Industrial Revolution. The first ever mills in England to use the Northrop during the Industrial Revolution were based Albert Mill which was based in Reddish, Stockport and Quay Bank Mill, Cheshire. Quay Bank Mill still have their Northrop Loom on display in their museum.
Image: Northrop Shuttle Loom
When I set out on my quest to create a British Made Men’s Jean I actaully approached The Quay Bank Mill, with a view of using their Northrop Loom to produce the fabric. Sadly, this wasn’t possible because it’s no longer in working order, for what I wanted to creat. But if you’re interested you can see the loom at Quay Bank Mill’s Museum, and the Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester also have one on display.
The old Mills towns were these looms once rattled out production, have been a great source of inspiration for Joe & Co. The rolling hills of these towns that surround Manchester we’re the inspiration for the design of the back pocket design of my British Made Men’s Jeans.
Image: Joe & Co Back Pocket Design
Why use Shuttle Looms
Most standard denim fabrics are woven using modern projectile looms. Where as selvedge denim fabric is woven on vintage shuttle looms. Aside from the fabric dyeing process. It is the shuttle loom that gives selvedge denim its distinctive appearance.
It’s the loom that gives the fabric that unique coloured edge to the fabric. The loom creates the fabrics edge, which prevents the fabric from fraying, and this unique feature is what gives the fabric its name selv “edge”
Image: The Whiteline Selv "edge" of the fabric
The looms also impart the unique appearance of the fabric, which are often referred to as slub and nep.
What is Slub
Slub; The technical meaning of slub is:
“a fabric having an irregular appearance caused by uneven thickness”.
What this means is the shuttle loom weaves a fabric that is uneven, softer, and has a more textured appearance.
Why is slub important?
It's these irregularities in the fabric that create more interesting fades. The uneven texture means fades will develop vertically and the fabric will fades will appear at a different rate. So as your jeans age different levels of fades will begin to appear.
What is Nep?
Nep; The technical meaning of nep is:
"fabric that has been woven in such a way that fibres will sometimes protrude slightly from the surface"
The Shuttle Looms create the nep effect in selvedge fabric. The protruding fibres are fibres that have broken or knotted as a result of how the looms weave the fabric.
And why is nep important?
Nep like slubbing adds to the characteristic fade of the fabric.
But rather than creating vertical fades, nep encourages horizontal fading.
As your jeans break in and the creases build up. The nep in the fabric will encourage fades to appear across the creases.
Designing Our British Made Jean
We wanted our British Made Jean to be reminiscent of the original denim workwear
That hard wearing, worn in battered look, the type of jean that gets better the more you wear them.
Nep and slub, are what gave denim workwear its authentic look. And only shuttle looms can create these characteristics. Funnily enough, mass manufactures try to produce this look using their projectile looms.
So not only was the heritage of the shuttle loom important to us. They are vital in creating the style of men's jean we were looking to create.
Making of the British Made Jean
Now that I have finally sourced a true British Made Selvedge Denim Fabric. I am ready to construct our British Made Men's Jean. But unlike the international fabric such as the Japanese Selvedge Fabric, I didn't have to ship it in.
This fabric made a 30 mile journey across Lancashire to the textile manufacture.
I did make enquires into transporting the fabric using the Lancashire canal network. But this wasn’t a workable option.
The construction of my men’s jeans is an important aspect for me. It’s here where we add the premium quality detailing that differentiates my men’s jeans form any other .
When I was constructing this jean, I wanted to celebrate their heritage. So, I commissioned the design of an embroidered Lancashire Red Rose that we have added to the small coin pocket of the jean, as a nod to where they were crafted
Image: Embroidered Lancashire Red Rose
So, there you have it, this is how I finally realised my vision of creating a truly British Made Men’s Jean.
I hope you can see the passion and desire that has gone into creating them and I hope that they will become your favourite pair of jeans.
Not only do I hope they become your favourite jeans. I also hope that like us, you''ll will take pride in knowing that they have been created using sustainable manufacturing methods and have helped to restore the British Textile Industry.