Note: This is a guest post from Devin Leisher, one third of the dream team behind Warp & Weft: A Denim Documentary. Devin and Mehdi have been very busy filming in various cities over the past few months and are finally at the home stretch stages of compilation and editing. Devin was kind enough to step away and give us an update on how the project has been so far.
Wow, a lot has happened with the film since our last post on Heddels. We are almost 100% done with filming, and are well on our way into editing the film. There have been a few minor hiccups that have delayed some things a little, but for the most part this experience has been smooth and, most importantly, fun.
One of the best things we’ve taken away from filming is how accessible and open these people are. There aren’t a lot of industries in this world that you can email some of your “idols” in the scene, and actually get a response let alone meet up and hang out.
New York Stop
Filming in New York on multiple weekends was a lot of fun. We got to meet a lot of different types of enthusiasts, and talk to some people we’ve admired from afar on popular denim forums. The interviews with Beatle and JimmyC from Superfuture were really great. They both have been into this for quite a while and just have an enormous amount of knowledge on the subject of denim. It was really cool hearing Jimmy’s first experiences and history with raw denim, and Beatle’s enthusiasm for the future of this somewhat niche market was overwhelming.
Also in New York, we caught up with two denim start-ups (Feltraiger, who, since opening their first store behind Self Edge in New York have gotten quite a bit of good press; and Ruell and Ray, who focus mainly on raw selvage for women using primarily deadstock materials), Hartford Denim (who makes all sorts of vintage inspired pieces with unique details like copper-penny buttons and a leather patch cut to the shape of Connecticut), LandoCal126 (The Iron Heart forum moderator) and several other enthusiasts who brought beautiful denim and stories to the shoot.
After our weekends in New York, we made a week-long trip to California with stops in San Francisco and Los Angeles.
San Francisco couldn’t have gone better. We started out with Lynne Downey at the Levi’s archive where we saw the oldest known pair of jeans in the world, as well as some other very old pairs that have a lot of history behind them. Being a historian, one of Lynne’s favorite pairs was a pair of denim that she could trace a past to, and had a name and profession of the owner, as well as a hand written note to accompany them.
After Lynne, we went met up with Kiya Babzani, who owns Self Edge. Kiya’s interview was personally cool for me because he has such a strong presence on the internet and is somewhat of a denim guru, and is a very important player in bringing the world of Japanese denim and goods to America. It’s kind of a surreal experience when you see someone online every day and then meet them in person.
We talked a lot about the start of Self Edge and what this industry has become in America over the past 6 years as a direct result of his (and Gordon of Blue in Green, more on that later) work and enthusiasm. I’m not saying slightly obscure Japanese denim in the US would be impossible if not for them, but I think it would be a very different landscape, not to mention quite frustrating dealing with proxies.
While in Self Edge SF Mehdi picked up his first pair of raw denim, a pair of 3Sixteen narrows, which we took straight over to Jullian Dash, who does all the alterations and repairs for SESF as well as running Holy Stitch! Denim alterations and repair, among many other projects. Jullian showed us around the shop and some of his very old sewing machines, as well as demonstrating some darning and hemming for the film.
The next morning, we headed to Oakland to visit Roy Slaper in his workshop. What an eye-opening experience this was for us. Roy allowed us to hang out and film all morning (Resulting in about 3-4 hours of footage), where we got a lot of really cool insights into his thoughts and practices with denim. He definitely had some very “zen” quotes where you could just tell he thinks about denim on a whole different level.
He showed us his new denim that Cone Mills made specifically for him, and was using for his new run of 04’s (At this point they have been released and are all but gone), and made an entire pair for us to film. The insane thing about Roy’s jeans is that they are all made completely by him, and nobody else. Design, cut, sew, rivet, patch, everything is just Roy. Needless to say, we left wanting a pair!
After our time with Roy, we headed on back into San Francisco to film five denim enthusiasts. The nice thing about some of these “enthusiast” shoots is just talking and hanging out with people just like you. Getting to “nerd-out” with like-minded people about denim is not something we get to do a lot because this scene is fairly limited where we live (in comparison).
Plus, we got to see a lot of nice fading on different brands of denim that we’d never been able to see in real life. It’s really fascinating how different and unique denim is in person. The fine details, subtle colors and construction are what makes us denim-heads tick. It’s funny how different these pairs become once motion in introduced.
After the “enthusiast” shoot, we hiked up the street to Unionmade Goods, where we spoke briefly with Carl Chiara (Unionmade owner and formerly of Levi’s) and the creators of JackKnife. JackKnife was not a brand we were familiar with (other than hearing the name) until that day, but after talking and checking out their site they seem like they do some very cool stuff and have some great insights. We wish we could have gotten more time with them, but our schedule was filled to the brim.
The last shoot we had in San Francisco was an interview with SuperFuture user, RingRing. It was humbling speaking with someone who is so knowledgeable about denim, and hearing a lot of personal experiences with denim from someone who is so secretive on the forums. That’s all that can be said about that for now…
After San Francisco we took a short trip down to Los Angeles, where we met up with Steven Dang from Railcar Fine Goods, Johan from 3Sixteen, and Tyler from Self Edge. We had quite a bit more planned for Los Angeles, but as in life not everything went as planned.
Meeting up at Railcar was a lot of fun. Besides making some great jeans, Steven actually works on the metro cars for Los Angeles, so it was cool to see a modern-day version of the railroad-workwear type of a century ago. Steven is also a machine-enthusiast who seeks out some unique, vintage sewing machines and tunes and rebuilds them, a skill that is very important in owning a jean shop that relies on vintage machines. As we learned with Roy, it’s one thing to work with them, it’s another to understand them.
After Railcar, we headed back into the city to hang out with the guys at Self Edge LA, where we met Tyler and Johan. Tyler was awesome to talk to, and we spent a decent amount of time talking about the trends people go after at SELA, as well as his thoughts on denim, which were fairly unique compared to what we had been hearing. Johan took us through the entire history of 3Sixteen and how their involvement with Self Edge came to be, some “happy accidents” with the brand, and his own experience with RingRing, which was a little bit of a Kaiser Soze moment.
After coming home from California, we made another trip back up to New York to interview Gordon, owner of Blue in Green. Gordons interview was so unlike every other we’ve had. He has had so much involvement with denim and the garment industry in general, sewing professionally for a decade prior to opening BiG.
It was a neat perspective that focused almost entirely on craftsmanship and the specific machines that go into making the Japanese brands he carries (Not to say that many others did not focus on craftsmanship, but that was really Gordons only concern). Gordon has nearly no presence on the internet, so it was really special to get so much out of him for the film, I hope people really value the interview with him.
Which brings us to today, where editing is taking over all of our free time. We got so much great footage, but sifting through it all and organizing it has been quite an undertaking. Certainly not a bad problem to have though. Its been a lot of fun “reliving” all of the shoots and listening to all the neat conversations.
We’re still ironing out filming at Cone, which has become somewhat challenging, but the main focus of the film (the human interaction and similarities of enthusiasts) is complete, which is the biggest relief. We are still aiming for a “release” in the middle of June, which is fast approaching!
All in all we could not be happier with the footage we’ve shot and the people we’ve met. Everyone we’ve interacted with has been awesome and so open, which has really made this process easy and fun. Hopefully the people who see this film can get as much out of it as we have!