Antwerp may not be the first place that springs to mind when you think of Harley’s, motorcycle charters and denim. However, between the two of them the founders of Eat Dust, Keith and Rob, have decades of experience with denim and the denim industry. Along with this they combine a solid friendship, a passion for motorbikes, good music and the eternal search for a good time. This all gets poured into Eat Dust resulting in a collection of garments and accessories that exude authenticity and originality. Keith and Rob were kind enough to take some time to have a chat and give us an in-depth look at where the brand is coming from and where it is headed.
Do you remember your first pair of jeans?
Rob: “I do remember, but only from pictures. My mum was quite fashionable. I had a shirt with an all-over photographic print and flares. I was probably eight or nine.”
Keith: “My earliest recollection of wearing jeans was a striped overall. My only recollection is this hickory stripe.”
What do you love, what is it that attracts most about denim?
Rob: “It’s a workwear thing that everybody wears, everybody looks good in and everybody likes it. It’s something that’s been an interest of mine for a long time, more towards the old stuff, not that we are trying to recreate old things. Cause we’re not.”
Keith: “Versatile. It’s a living thing; it changes, especially with the unwashed denim. Once I started working at G-Star I was only into the unwashed stuff.”
Rob: “We don’t believe in washing denim. At all! That’s probably the best way to look at it, which is why we only do unwashed denim. With unwashed denim you wear them and they become yours. The whiskers become yours, the whole thing. I think it’s much more interesting to have a pair that you wear in yourself than trying to buy something that looks like somebody else wore them for ten years, fuck that. You wear it and it becomes your thing.”
Keith: “It’s funny because I worked for a high fashion designer and he always said, “it’s going to go away this denim thing,” and I’m just like, “fuck no, what are you talking about?””
Rob: “It’s never ever going to go away. Especially now, you see a lot of brands popping up like us. It even gets more interesting over the years. There are more people that don’t want to wear the washed out stuff. It’s more interesting to buy something clean and wear it in yourself. I don’t think it’s ever going to go away. Ever!”
It seems that you have both been around denim for most of your working lives but what first sparked your interest in unwashed denim?
Rob: “For me it was when I started working for Diesel. The stuff I was most into was from Old Glory, reproductions of Lee and Levi’s from the past. At that time there was no vintage culture. This was the eighties and they were looking at the past, doing recreations of forties and fifties stuff. Not a lot of brands did this. I still have a lot of Old Glory stuff. Maybe there was no unwashed denim but that’s when I started wearing the darker denim. After that I worked for Levi’s in San Francisco and I only wore the unwashed stuff. Since then I have never worn anything washed again. So that’s fourteen or fifteen years ago.”
Keith: “When I was at the Fashion Academy I always wanted to do denim. I never wanted to go work for fashion companies. I then got the job offer from G-Star. In the beginning G-Star was really just about unwashed denim. I don’t really know how I got into it the way I am now.”
What do you think is the most important part of making a pair of quality jeans?
Keith: “We really like it when it’s made the old way. We tend to work with Japanese denim but would also work with American denim. It’s important it’s made the way it used to be made. We produce the clothing with a third generation denim manufacturer from Belgium. They still have the old machines. It has that history. You see that nothing has been done to it.”
Rob: “The manufacturer we use knows how to make denim. It’s really nice to see Japanese guys who are in this shop (Burg and Schild), the first thing they do is turn the pant inside out and they look at the craftsmanship of the pant. If there are lots of threads hanging out, if it’s clean, the way it’s stitched, the pocket lining and so on, they respond to this. It’s really nice to have recognition from people who have been into denim for a long time. Especially these Japanese guys, they are really into it. They’re like “that’s workmanship”. They like what we are doing. So we know we are not bullshitting around. It’s also the honesty.”
Keith: “It’s not our philosophy to reproduce.”
Rob: “We’re not a brand that’s remaking a 501. We like denim but we like to keep it modern. We like the old aspect of it but we are living now. We ride the bikes and that’s more important to us. That’s why the yoke is a little bit higher so your butt doesn’t hang out if you sit on a bike. That’s important stuff and that’s nothing that has anything to do with vintage jeans. It’s something that’s really helpful if you ride a motorcycle.”
Keith: “We can never make it as good as the Japanese do. If they do a reproduction, they do a reproduction. If you do it, I think you have to do it right. It’s no use for us to start counting the stitches in however many centimetres from an old Levis pant.”
Rob: “They are meticulous. We set a high standard but we don’t count the stitches. They have to be good pants, it’s a lot of money we know that but you can also wear them for a long time. They are €189 right. So you should at least be able to wear them 189 times. Keith’s wearing one of the first pants that we made for more than 365 days straight! He’s patched them up here and there but they don’t fall apart. So you know if you’re buying €189 jeans you can at least wear them 189 times. A Euro for every time you wear them. I don’t think that there are a lot of products out there that you can have the same philosophy with. It’s a good quality product.”
“We try to keep the people happy. You spend that much money on a pair of jeans; you need to be happy with them. You cannot be fucked off. You’ll never come back; it’s not good advertising for a brand that you just started. It’s something more respectful. We try to treat people fair.”
Why do you think unwashed, selvedge denim has become more popular recently?
Keith: “It’s still for a small group. We see this with our friends also. We have been wearing unwashed denim for a long time but since we started a brand, now all our friends have started to wear our pants.”
Rob: “It’s more word of mouth. People who are maybe not into the whole industry, see people wearing it, looking nice, feeling good. Then they get more into that kind of thing. Now people want a more honest product, something good that you can wear for a long time. A new but completely torn up pant is going to fall apart much faster. I don’t know if it’s a trend exactly but more people start to wear unwashed denim and start to like it, start to talk about it. That is how people will get into it more than they used to.”
Keith: “You hear more about it through the whole internet and blog thing. I think there have always been people that have been busy with it. That have been wearing it for a long time. It is becoming more popular but it’s not like a mass thing. The big high street stores are never going to stop doing washes and only do unwashed, selvedge denim. It’s not that big.”
How do you care for your jeans – any special routines?
Keith: “Just put them on and don’t take them off.”
Rob: “Normally I just put on a pair of Eat Dust pants and I’ll wear those from till they fall apart. The ones that I have now are really comfortable but they are just too dirty.”
“I have been wearing them for a year and a half and they are looking am-maz-ing. Actually I need to find the time to patch them up and then I will wear them for another half year. They are my best pair. If you start to smell like a wet dog you just take them to a dry cleaner and start to wear them again.”
Keith: “I’m too scared to take them to a dry cleaner. It’s been 15 years now that I haven’t washed any pants. And I’m scared. I should wash them just to see how they’re going to look after two years of wearing them intensively.”
Rob: “The ones that Keith wears have a complete coating over them, when he wears them in the rain they don’t get wet. There so much oil and crap on them. He keeps telling me that he will maybe wash them. The two months later, nope.”
Keith: “I can’t bear to do it. I can’t do it. Some people are grossed out. But I’m scared I am not going to wear them again after I do it.”
Rob: “I used to dry clean the 501s when I was at Levi’s. They look amazing. Once I brought a pant to the dry cleaner and they washed them. I almost killed this woman. They turned completely a different shade than the ones that were dry-cleaned. I honestly was sick to my stomach from it.”
Keith: “That’s how nerdy we get.”
Do you collect anything?
Keith: “Yeah, too much.”
Rob: “I’ve collected everything for as long as I can remember. Sunglasses, watches, Fifties furniture, Sixties furniture, Seventies furniture. Shoes, really bad. Yeah, I collect a lot.”
Keith: “I collect a lot of old army shit; I collect Star Wars, Motorcycles, and records. Stupid things like labels. It’s really weird actually. People in the industry, doing this, they seem to collect shit. It’s nice, in a way to keep stuff. Again, it’s not this throw away culture. Everything you buy nowadays is made to throw away. I think people who collect are into this not throw away kind of shit.”
Rob: “I don’t believe in that, it’s better to buy a Zippo, keep it. Instead of buying a cheap plastic lighter that you throw out. I guess this mentality comes back, with the jeans as well. You hold onto something you buy instead of buying shit that you throw out all the time. And that’s a good thing.”
Are there any up-coming or unknown brands that you think are worth looking into?
Keith: “It’s funny, all the guys who are doing the same thing as we are.”
Rob: “David Spencer with scarves, they’re amazing, handmade in England. The Great Frog, that’s coming back.”
Keith: “The good thing about starting Eat Dust is that we became friends with them. The nice thing about Indegofera and On Tour and the guys from Liberty Liberty. Everybody helps out each other; it’s not competition in any way.”
Rob: “They are okay with sharing their customers. It’s not a good economy right now, especially for the smaller brands. So if you can help somebody out, you do. We became friends with a lot of brands.”
Keith: “We are also open about who produces our stuff. If we know it’s a good producer and can help them, yeah go ahead, why not.”
Rob: “It’s all coming from a background of either ex-skateboarders or people into bikes; they’re into making cool shit, handcrafted stuff. People who are really passionate about what they are doing, that’s what it’s all about I think.”
Keith: “Helping out each other and benefitting from it. Not stabbing somebody in the back.”
Instead of producing new collections every six months you like to stick to offering a few really well conceived items. How has this idea worked out for you?
Rob: “Yeah, still keeping it.”
Keith: “We have the Bloodline which comes out every six months. It’s on a pre order but it’s also going to stay the same. It’s going to be there but it’s not something we’re going to do on stock. Our basic core collection will always be there.”
Rob: “Having these shows every six months kind of forces everybody to work in this way but if we could do without the seasonal stuff we would like to do it and just bring out new shit whenever we like it. So with the denim stuff we try to keep everything in stock but we will make little changes to T-Shirt prints for instance. Keep the same shape of T-Shirt and keep our core graphic, the Eat Dust skull, but maybe change the colour of the print or do a new print once in a while.”
Where does the inspiration for the new collections come from?
Rob: “Most of the time when we’re on trips together, we get all these ideas. We have most of our ideas on the way home.”
Keith: “The collection we are showing at the moment was made when we drove back from Berlin.”
Rob: “By the time we got to Holland we were cracking up. We were going to do this full on Americana, cowboy shit. The whole collection happened on the way from Germany to Holland. Stopping every couple of hours, thinking on the bike.”
Keith: “That happened with the Bloodline too. That happened on a car ride from Paris.”
Rob: “We found one piece of black fabric that we both liked so much, we were so enthusiastic about it. We were talking about it for three and a half hours and we came up with the whole collection. The labelling, the whole thing.”
Keith: “So we will have to do this again for the new stuff that’s going to come out.”
Rob: “Most of the time we have too many ideas and we have to stop ourselves.”
At the core of Eat Dust you seem to have 3 cuts of jeans, a jacket and a vest and base your new offerings off these, but where did the initial inspiration come from?
Keith: “We have the full jacket which is our interpretation on a worker jacket and then we have the sleeveless and then we have our three fits (jeans) and a few t-shirts.”
Rob: “The sleeveless, nobody did it. Lee’s not doing it, Levi’s not doing it. We were always wearing Lee jackets and cutting off the sleeves. Nobody was doing it so we had to make one because we wanted to wear it. Basically the whole collection came about from stuff we wanted to wear.”
Keith: “With the first two fits Rob always had a pant on that was a more straight fit and I was always wearing a more tapered pant.”
Rob: “That’s where the names come from, 73 (the tapered pant) and the 67 (the straight fit). I’m from 67 and he’s from 73.”
Keith: “The 673 we share.”
Rob: “The jacket, the 673. The sleeveless is 736. And the new fit of jeans is 76.”
What are the next steps for Eat Dust?
Rob: “It would be cool if we could both live off it, not make money, just pay or rent and from time to time we can buy some stupid motorcycle.”
Keith: “Yeah, that would be nice. If we keep doing what we are doing and people like it then that’s really really nice and if at some point we can make a living out of it that would be super nice. And go from time to time to motorcycle things, that’s it.”
Rob: “We don’t want to be millionaires, we just want to ride a bike and be. That’s it, to be.”
Pictures: Eat Dust.