Even though Britain is one of the world’s largest and most powerful economies, until recently it lacked its own high-end denim store which left domestic denim heads with no choice but to import their jeans. That changed last year when Danny Hodgson opened Rivet And Hide, a London-based retailer with an online store and by-appointment workshop that gives UK customers the opportunity to try out the world’s best denim in the flesh.
In addition to distinguished Japanese brands like The Flat Head, Pure Blue Japan, and Iron Heart, Rivet And Hide also offers a European edge to their lineup by including Hiut Denim from Wales, Dawson Denim from England, and Steel Feather from Norway.
Hodgson tends to stay out of the spotlight in comparison to some of the community’s more bombastic figures, but when we approached him for an interview, he was happy to shed some light on his own story in addition to Rivet’s growth over the past year.
RD: It’s been over a year since Rivet And Hide opened its doors. How has the store grown and changed since then?
DH: When I look back to August 2012 I almost shudder with fear again. I kind of leaped into the unknown here in London. However, once I got some great brands on board like The Flat Head I never looked back. And being a home for Steel Feather was important to show I was out to find new and interesting small-scale brands. This year I have introduced Pure Blue Japan, indigofera, Bybeatle, Dawson Denim and 3sixteen.
Few people knew that I was operating R&H out of my living room, bedroom and any spare space from my small west London home. In February I started doing appointments in my living room. It was great: I’d make the customer a coffee or a good old British cup of tea and quite often we’d end up chatting like old friends. April came, and I moved all the stock to Apartment 58, where I did a month long pop-up. My first PBJ and 3sixteen order arrived whilst I was there and I suddenly realized I had well and truly outgrown my home.
In May we moved lock stock and union special barrel to the workshop in Parson’s Green. It’s a great 600sq ft loft space, from which I operate the webshop, but have it set up like a store where customers can browse, try on jeans to their hearts’ content and get a very attentive one-on-one service. It’s a bit reminiscent of London’s Saville Row for suits – but with denim. It’s bang next to the tube (subway) so the location is very convenient.
RD: How did you get into raw denim and how did you end up deciding to make it your job?
DH: I bought my first pair of STF Levi’s in the 80s. I have no idea whether they were selvedge as I was not even aware of it at the time (unlike some of my customers.)
In the last 10 years I first got into Nudie Jeans and then Japanese repro brands like The Flat Head. Over time my enthusiasm with it went deeper than looking for the best fit. I became more and more interested in how things are made and the motivation that lies behind each brand I was buying in to.
I had never bought clothes that had been pre-distressed with a mock-lived-in design. By this time I was becoming more addicted to raw clothing and leather goods and fixated on patina and other aging processes. I knew I could only create a business if it totally absorbed me. London lacked a great Japanese denim store and the penny dropped. That’s how it all started.
So I cashed in life savings, got the Flat Head dealership, traveled to Japan, and just dived in. It’s not an easy business but I find it incredibly satisfying. There are some great characters behind the brands and customers and meeting them is the best part.
RD: I totally agree. The community is a big part of what makes the denim hobby fun for me. So tell me, what kind of music or movies have inspired your style and love of denim?
DH: The 80s was my formative decade music. Fortunately it had little lasting influence over my sense of style. I’ve always enjoyed films and books that document social and cultural changes and music that reflects that change too.
RD: Nice! Even though I was born at the tail end of the eighties, I like a lot music from that decade, too.
DH: If I had been a teenager in 1960s Britain I’d have loved elements of both the Mod and Rocker style and combined both. I’d have been rejected by both groups for heresy, though.
For the last decade my favourite band has been The Arctic Monkeys. I’m seeing them live at Earls court on my birthday later this month. Alex Turner is not only an incredible songwriter, he has great style. He’s northern though. It’s natural.
RD: What’s your favorite pair of jeans you own?
DH: Pure Blue Japan XX-011. The fabric and fit works well for me and they are breaking in nicely, but it will be a different answer in six months’ time.
RD: Even though Rivet is a young store, you’ve already got two exclusive models of jeans – the byBeatle Volume One, and The Flat Head’s special edition 12 oz. model. Can you tell us a little more about these jeans?
DH: Bybeatle Volume One is the love child of Beatle, a denim enthusiast well-known across the worldwide denim community. Earlier this year she headed to Okayama and set in motion her dream of developing her own Made In Japan brand. Volume One has turned out to be a popular slim fit. The denim reeks of deep indigo through a 24 dip process. The crotch is reinforced with an inner patch. Beatle cycles 15 miles a day and her prototype jeans have stood the test of time: she’s cycled daily in them since in March and the crotch is still intact.
The K0011 jeans have also been popular. They stand out for several reasons. The denim is 12 oz, so slightly lighter than the trademark Pioneer denim, the inseam is a generous 37” with much less shrinkage than Flat Head ‘s other denim, and the back pocket arcuates are a subtle indigo. Plus, there’s the fact that they are a special edition which will always appeal to true Flat Head aficionados.
RD: In Japan and much of Europe, people interested in the denim subculture also tend to be motorcycle enthusiasts. Since Britain has its own unique history with motorcycles, have you noticed a similar correlation close to home?
DH: The heritage of motorcycles in both design and clothing is very strong here so there is a natural crossover with denim. I was at the Best of Britannia show in early October and saw some great British motorcycles companies such as Old Empire Motorcycles. The guys there had a great appreciation of denim. They loved our store’s denim as much as I admired the bikes they make.
As a kid I spent some time in the Isle of Man and remember the TT races very well. Lewis Leathers was worn by any serious race biker in those days and this classic British brand is stronger than ever today amongst those who appreciate true style. That said, there are plenty of raw denim enthusiasts who are not bike enthusiasts but the correlation certainly exists in some quarters.
RD: Are there any brands that you think put a particularly British spin on raw denim style?
DH: Dawson Denim is a very British raw denim brand. Between them, Kelly and Scott have worked with denim for 15 years and share a wealth of knowledge about fabrics. They embrace the mid-century urban style with relish from filling their home with original 1950s furniture pieces to riding around their hometown of Brighton on Series 2 1959 Lambrettas. They are true British mods in style with a healthy touch of eccentricity. In a way that mid-century Americana pervades The Flat Head’s entire raison d’etre, Dawson Denim take inspiration from the cultural scene in the UK of that period.
Their first pair of jeans – just launched at the Best of Britannia show – is based on a late 1950s – early 1960s fit. The denim is a 14.5 oz red line Japanese selvedge denim woven on a 1920s Toyoda shuttle loom. The leather patch is British. The pocket bags are made from original British deadstock pocketing from WWII. Towards the end of the war, sheds across the UK were transformed into manufacturing units to make supplies for the war effort, and in 1945 there was a huge surplus. The khaki fabric is in mint condition and some jeans will get a pocket with the original stamp. So these jeans will have a slice of British history.
RD: Rivet already has a strong lineup of brands, but what are some others that you might be interested in offering in the future?
DH: Well, I expanded Rivet & Hide a lot this year so I am in no major rush for new brands. I’m focusing more on developing the ones I already carry and getting them known and loved in the West.
That said, if another brand of unquestionable quality and comes my way, fits in well with the mix, and if I can build a strong and lasting relationship with the people behind it, then the doors are open.
RD: Let’s say that you’re stranded on a deserted (but cool) island for a year. You’ve already got your favorite broken-in pair of jeans. What else do you bring along for the ride?
DH: No question. A Flat Head shirt.
RD: Finally, what upcoming fall/winter item are you most excited to stock at Rivet?
DH: One of the best Flat Head flannels ever made is due very soon and I can’t wait, plus some very cool stadium jackets and hoodies from 3sixteen should be here by November. Early next year, Pure Blue Japan have a few surprises up their indigo sleeves which will appeal to the western market.
RD: Thanks for the great interview Danny! We’re looking forward to Rivet & Hide’s continuing growth!