With the plethora of fantastic indigo dyed denims out there, we sometimes overlook the other possibilities that the age-old dyestuff has to offer. The latest “collusion” project, Denham’s AW14 collaboration with weaver London Cloth, changes this.
The Denham x London Cloth collaboration takes us into the heart of everything we love about denim; the spinning, the dyeing, the weaving, and the fading. It is just, the end result is neither a pair of jeans, nor a denim fabric.
I sat down with Jason Denham, the “jeanmaker” himself, and Daniel Harris (below on the left) who is responsible for creating one of the most unique, indigo dyed fabrics I have ever come across. I wanted to find out how this collaboration came about and get the facts about how this very special fabric was crafted.
A Garment That Started With the Idea For a Cloth
It all started when the crew at the Shoreditch Denham store in London got wind of a local weaver. This weaver was operating machinery dating back over a century. As soon as Jason Denham heard, he was on a plane; he needed to find out more. He went straight to the London Cloth Company, where he met with owner Daniel Harris.
“Getting together with Daniel was very exciting. He is a genius in his own right. He is full of energy, ideas, passion for his product, and he has an infectious personality,” the founder of Denham recalls.
As anyone familiar with the Denham brand will know, the exact same personality traits are what has carried Denham to the success it has today, so Jason surely found a kindred spirit. When Harris presented the idea for the “Union Cloth,” which combines cotton and wool yarns in one fabric, Denham instantly knew that it was the perfect match for his brand.
“The composition combined with indigo dyestuff got me very excited. We are very proud of this piece,” mr. Denham explains.
Rope Dyed Natural Indigo Yarn Is the Heart of the Union Cloth
To craft the Union Cloth, Harris and his team took Shetland wool and cotton and rope dyed it using only natural indigo dye. The natural indigo gives the yarn a beautiful green cast, opposed to the red cast often found in synthetic indigo. The rope dyeing process differs from both hank dyeing or cone dyeing. The yarn is wound onto a beam and passed through the dye repeatedly. It leaves the core of the yarn white and this where our fades spring from.
The indigo dyed yarn is then threaded onto one of the vintage looms in Harris’ workshop. To weave the fabric he used a variety of looms dating from the 1880s to the 1960s. Most are shuttle looms where the warp is passed through the weft automatically. But the sample of the fabric was actually hand woven. A skilled and time-consuming process.
The Weave of the Special Cotton/Wool Union Cloth
The fabric is a 60%-40% mix between cotton and wool. The warp is cotton and the weft is wool. All denimheads will recognize the term 3×1 twill, and this is precisely how this fabric is woven. Meaning that most of the wool, weft threads sit on the back of the fabric.
Once the fabric come off the loom, Harris sends it off to one of the oldest finishers in the Untied Kingdom. There it is milled, scoured, shrunk, raised, and pressed. Skilled processes necessary to stabilize the fabric before sewing it into the final garment.
“I am really, really happy with this cloth. What I love is it takes all the best qualities of indigo cotton, but the addition of the wool makes it fantastic for jacketing,” Harris argues.
The Fruit of the Collaboration: A Crombie Overcoat
The Union Cloth is woven in very low quantities, so what exactly do you make with such a rare cloth? For Jason this was simple:
“We wanted to worship tradition and destroy convention. The Union Cloth has a perfect weight for a Crombie style overcoat, and the fact that the fabric is woven in London pays homage to the classic jacket. The indigo twist on such a special piece sets it apart in both men’s and women’s cuts.”
I first encountered the jacket at Bread & Butter way back in January, but the cloth stayed in my mind this entire time. We will stay in touch with Denham over the next months, and maybe a Denham customer will be willing to share his experiences with the cloth.
You can get the coat here.