When we think of jeans, we often think of classic American brands. We don’t really think of the UK and we definitely don’t think of Italy. However, before jeans were developed as workwear by Jacob Davis and Levi Strauss in 1873, denim was invented in Italy in the 16th Century and produced in Nîmes, France.
The words denim and jean are derived from the origins of the material. ‘Denim’ is a contraction of ‘de Nîmes‘ or from Nimes. Similarly, the denim cloth imported from Italy, labelled ‘cloth from Jeane’, an anglicised spelling of Genoa formed the name for jeans.
Denim involves more than just material production; the dying process is vital in creating the iconic blue jeans we wear today. The Egyptians used indigo dyes and indigo is also popular in South East Asian Batik designs.
Japan is most renowned for its knowledge and expertise in the use of indigo dyes. The government the Edo Period (1603-1868) banned common people from wearing bright colours; limited to blues, greys and browns, they used indigo to dye their clothes. Today, Japanese Indigo remains the highest quality indigo dye available. It is little known that indigo dyeing actually makes the cotton fibres in jeans stronger and also has insect repellent properties! Whilst many plants produce indigo pigments, even plants like rhubarb and cabbage, many synthetic alternatives are used today.
China, India, Turkey and Brazil produce the majority of the jeans we buy today. However, if you’re looking for something made closer to home, YouK has found a few brands whose jeans are UK made.
Hiut Denim Co., Cardigan
Cardigan is a small town on the west coast of Wales. For three decades, the town produced over 35,000 pairs of jeans a week. This local industry supported a workforce of 400 until it closed down in 2002.
That changed in 2011 when the Hiut Denim Company brought jeans back to the town. Their Grand Masters produce up to 100 pairs of Hiut jeans every week from the best quality denim. In June 2018, after years of steady growth, Huit Denim moved into the old denim factory that closed in 2002.
Dawson Denim, Brighton
Since 2012, Dawson Denim has been building a collection of UK made denim workwear using traditional techniques. Founders Kelly Dawson and Scott Ogden design, cut and sew each product themselves. Their attention to detail gives their customers a unique experience far removed from fast fashion. They source the highest quality denim, woven and dyed in Okayama, Japan, to use in their specialist workshop in Brighton, England.
Forge Denim, Sheffield
Finally, we move on to Sheffield-based Forge Denim, the brainchild of Richard Mappin and Alex Mir. The pair have a wealth of experience in retail and an encyclopaedic knowledge of all things denim. Forge Denim believes that local manufacturing means sourcing as many components as possible from the UK. Their branded steel buttons? Made in Sheffield. And their pocket linings? Made in Lancashire.
Across these brands backing British manufacturing, we see a strong sense of the values we believe in at YouK. From brands reducing their product miles where possible to building a sense of community around a local workforce. Delving into the history of what you wear gives you a greater appreciation of the heritage and the processes behind products we take for granted as a wardrobe staple!