Barcelona, with its hot humid climate, may seem like one of the last places you would think of wearing raw denim; let alone find what may be Europe’s answer to Roy Slaper. However, on a recent trip to Barcelona I discovered Companion Denim. A one man brand run by Iu Franquesa. Iu kindly invited me to his workshop where he crafts some of the most detail-rich jeans I have come across to date.
Steeped in Denim From His Childhood
Iu is a true denim aficionado in every sense of the word. Many people producing denim these days refer to themselves as “growing up in denim.” Iu grew up steeped in it.
His family owned an industrial laundry from the mid 80s to 2005. The facility washed jeans for Levi’s, predominantly the mighty 501. Growing up, he spent a lot of his time in the laundry house learning the different processes and techniques.
The Beginnings of Companion Denim
Iu’s combined experience in the laundry and his fascination with sportswear clothing and textiles naturally led him to study fashion and textile design at ESDI (Superior School of Design), in Sabadell, Barcelona.
After his studies he went to work for some big names in the Spanish clothing industry. There he honed his skills for over 10 years.
In 2008, Iu started his own design studio and took the first tentative steps in creating Companion Denim.
Since day one Iu has been creating jeans that will become your constant companion. A friend that will be there for you through the good times and bad, for years on end.
The Right Tools
This was no easy feat. Iu spent a long time hunting down the perfect machines and creating the ideal workshop in which to realize his vision of the perfect blue jean.
The list of machines is impressive but his pride and joy is of course the Union Special 43200G: a machine that needs no introduction.
Beauty Comes From Within
Iu has worked closely with pattern makers to create the perfect fit and spent days and nights honing his skills on his vast selection of vintage sewing machines.
His time and effort paid off. He has poured all his knowledge and passion into creating jeans that are as beautiful inside as they are on the outside.
There is not a single loose thread or overlocked seem in the entire jean, at least none that were visible. Indeed the overlocking machine sat there looking rather forlorn.
The Jekyll and Hyde of Jeans
There are two fits in the range. The Joel01C, a slim fitting medium rise jean made from Cone Mills denim. The second is the newly released Hug01K (pronounced úk), a skinny fit made with denim from Kurabo Mills, Japan.
“The denim fabric is the starting point of my creative process. Once I get the right quality, I just let all the other materials find their place. It’s a puzzle. On the other side, I’m continuously experimenting with the machines and the materials to come up with new things.”
Iu wore the Joel, the first jean released by Companion. The fit was bang on and the fading has come in nicely for around the five month mark. He tries his best not to wash for the first year.
“Wear as much as possible, wash as little as possible.”
The Hug is for the raw denim pro, and certainly not for weightlifters.
They will be a challenge to break in, but Iu’s choice of denim will make it a little more bearable. On the outside is has a rough textured hand, but on the inside it is soft and supple, a true Jekyll and Hyde denim.
A Constant Pursuit For the Perfect “Clean” Construction
Iu builds in some beautiful details. Take the belt loops for instance.
In the majority of cases, belt loops have two open ends, in some higher end jeans one end is tucked into the waist band. However it still leaves one end open.
This is not good enough for Iu. He doubles over the belt loop. Leading it back on itself and ensuring both ends are tucked into the waistband.
Innovative ideas like this one are carried over onto all parts of the jean. To be honest, I could go on for pages about the details in the jeans but thankfully Iu has provided us with a guide to the intricacies of his jeans. Find the Joel here and the Hug here.
Every so often you come across a product where the evolution is tangible. Companion Denim is right at the beginning and it is essential to Iu that every step is done in the right way.
Seeing the products and the way in which Iu works, I can imagine the attention to detail and inclination to evolve will form the other garments in the Companion Range. This being the case, they will be something very, very special.
The next years will see Companion Denim broadening its product range and Iu hopes that during this time a faithful community of customers will follow the brand. I can really imagine this happening.
Keep an eye on Companion Denim through the website here.