In little over a decade, The Quality Mending Co. has gained a reputation as one of the most venerable vintage purveyors of New York.
But the thing that really caught the attention of denimheads around the globe and made the name stick to the denim community is the ‘Highrider jean’, also sold under the Quality Mending Co. name.
We had a chat with the man with the ideas, Oliver Harkness, an old time rock ‘n’ roller from Ireland who settled in The Big Apple to sell vintage clothes and design jeans.
One of the first questions that comes into mind is, “how did it all begin?”
As you may have read in the article about The Quality Mending Co., Oliver used to only wear vintage Levi’s 505 single stitch jeans, which he bought in bulks back in the days when nobody cared much about them.
Around the time when the vintage denim craze really took off the ‘source’ ran out and Oliver gave up wearing jeans. That was until a friend offered him the opportunity to make his own jeans. Oliver pulled the only pair of deadstock Levi’s 505 single stitch jeans he had left out of his archive, and with a few minor alterations based the pattern of the Highrider on it.
In Oliver’s own words, “everything about the Highrider is fantastic,” and when you get to know the story of the jean it’s easy to understand why he thinks so.
One of the things you note right away is that Oliver takes the ‘Made in the USA’ badge very seriously. In fact the only part of these jeans that aren’t made in America is the pocket lining.
The denim is 14 oz., double ring-spun, and milled by Cone Mills’ White Oak Factory in Greensboro, North Carolina on American Draper x3 fly shuttle loom from the 1940’s. Today, with the Highrider being based on a 60’s fit and cut, those same old looms are once again producing the same denim for the same style of jean after a 50-year hiatus.
When it comes to denim, as Oliver puts it,
“Cone Mills has a fantastic reputation for the highest quality denim in the States, but really what can be said about Cone Mills that hasn’t already?”
There are plans to use alternative fabrics, also from Cone Mills, in the future, possibly combined with some Japanese herringbone twills, but when it comes to the Highrider denim, Oliver stresses that it always has been and always will from Cone Mills.
The jeans are sewn in a factory in Newark, New Jersey only 8 miles from the NYC store. Oliver spent a lot of time getting the perfect cut and the best material, but what really makes the jean stand alone is the hardward; gorgeous Kentucky manufactured copper rivets and vintage Talon bell zippers, which complement the deadstock selvage pocket lining from 1920s made of Swiss army bed linen.
Oliver wants his customers to put on the Highrider to wear it for years, and in his experiences, pockets have always been a weak spot in jean design. This is why he has picked out an super durable material, and he guarantees that you won’t have your cellphone or wallet running down your leg because your pockets rip. To further ensure that the jeans won’t rip or tear they are sewn together with an American made A&E cotton shell with and a polyester core for extra strength.
The ‘rainbow’ chain stitch hemming is done by a Singer chain stitch machine.
The Highrider is available at the Quality Mending Co. website.