We reckon it must be really hard for a new brand to break into the denim market. Like sneakers, us folk like to keep things classic and simple—sticking to the big-time players. In the denim world, that would mean the likes of Levi’s, Wranglers, and Lee. Aka the big three. But there are plenty of fantastic established denim brands that have grown in popularity. We’ve even selected a handful of great denim companies to shop for your next pair of jeans. But how does a new or small company actually create a bit of traction and convince people they should put buy into something which could cost more, and be unchartered waters?
With an honest approach, meticulous designs, and the highest level of brand-to-customer interaction it can be done. There are plenty of independent denim manufacturers making a name for themselves in the fashion world. In case you hadn’t heard, Japan makes some of the best jeans on the market. And, there are plenty of local, tiny, indy jean companies here in the states. Below are eight of our favorite small denim brands.
England isn’t known for its denim. But one thing it does pride itself on is craft and textiles. So it makes perfect sense for these two things to come together — to create a product that fits the bill for the modern-day. Dawson Denim fills that niche perfectly—a result of 15 years working in the denim industry. Taking inspiration from the past, and the golden age of motoring, Dawson’s hardwearing selvedge can be found stocked across Europe, Japan, and the US. Link
Hailing from a small town in Wales with a rich history in denim production and manual labor, Hiut Denim set about bringing jobs back to the area. Back in the day, the town would see 35,000 pairs of jeans created each week. But one day that trade ran dry. The factory closed. A few decades later, one local entrepreneur decided to rebuild the town’s indigo roots. Hiut’s motto is to “Do One Thing Well.” And that’s lead them to create some of the finest jeans you’re likely to find. And, unlike some of the others mentioned here, they only make jeans. No jackets, no accessories, only high quality denim jeans. Link
It’s become a known deal that Japan knows a thing or two about making awesome denim. When the majority of factories traded in their old equipment, back when jeans were becoming more mass-market produce in the ‘70s, the Japanese bought up all the American machines for a cut price. The quality of denim slipped across the world, but Japan was left to create its denim the original way. We could pick any number of Japanese brands to profile here, but we’ve chosen Kapital—named after the city of Kojima, affectionately named the “Denim Capital of Japan.” Link
Along with Kapital, one of the other standout names from the Japanese denim scene is 45R. From start to finish, each 45R garment has been hand-dyed, weaved, and stitched in Japan, using natural plant dye, those old looms, and years of garment construction experience. Each roll of cotton that 45R uses is dyed twice a day for two weeks, using their signature Ai-indigo, which creates a long-lasting, rich color. In turn, you’ll get a more natural fading and wearing process, giving them their unique lived-in, laundered appearance. Link
3sixteen might well be a familiar name to some. If you chat to folk interested in denim, then it won’t be long before the name pops up. Founded just over a decade ago, 3sixteen don’t profess to be a global force-type brand, rather, they pride themselves on jeans that’ll kick ass for longer than a few rough winters. Using denim directly from the Kuroki Mills in Okayma, Japan, and constructed in the US, 3sixteen offers a hearty range of selvedge denim in classic fits, across several weights. Link
Raleigh Denim Workshop
Now, these guys are right up there at the top when it comes to a “Do It Yourself” mentality. The Raleigh Denim story is a simple one: create the best jeans possible, and do it all from your own home. Using the knowledge that the husband and wife team gained from a series of informal apprenticeships with factory workers, patternmakers, and mechanics throughout North Carolina, they followed their passion to create small batches of premium denim. A lot of inspiration can be taken from their attitude towards design, detail, and retaining those old-school values. The small details on their products–red chainstich hem, hand-signed pockets–are insanely intricate. And you’re left with a pair of jeans that tells a story. Link
Founded in 2009, this Swedish apparel brand prides itself on premium quality and artful style. Despite crafting a wide variety of garments, INDIGOFERA’s roots remain firmly in the world of denim. Choose from a selection of fits, weights, and washes knowing that at the end of the day you’ll get a quality pair of jeans. And, as INDIGOFERA makes clear on its site, they’ve only done half the job by making the denim. By buying and wearing their jeans, you complete the story. Link
Just north of the aforementioned Raleigh Denim Workshop lies Shockoe Atelier. The team at this Richmond, VA-based denim manufacturer takes a similarly personal approach to producing jeans. All of Shockoe’s jeans are handmade by garment experts in Old Dominion. Plus, if you happen to get a rip or a tear, Shockoe Atelier offers free lifetime repairs on all its jeans. Link
Want to read more about the best denim jeans? Click here for Cool Material’s Guide to Denim.