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Pete Searson of Tellason: Denim Innovation Pt. 4

This marks our fourth installment in our series on “innovation” in the world of raw denim. We’ve been speaking with experts within the industry to get their take on this idea as it applies to our beloved fabric and its market.

Tellason is no stranger to our site, and in the five years that they’ve been around, they have made an indelible mark in the world of raw denim. When we speak of “innovation” and Tellason, we have to go beyond the surface-level characteristics of denim to its basic elements, such as fabric. It’s not readily apparent that they developed a denim with Cone Mills that had more indigo concentration than the mill had ever produced.

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Tellason’s 14.75 Cone Mills denim

Part of their ethos rests on the idea of consistency: they wish to give a person the same product five years down the line if he or she loves it and wishes to buy it again in the same form. While this sounds contrary to the idea of “innovation,” it is actually an attitude that is not necessarily prevalent in the world of denim.

We had the privilege of speaking with Pete Searson, one of the co-owners of Tellason. We asked him the same questions as our other experts. Here’s his take.

Heddels (Jon Dalley): What do you feel is the most innovative part of the raw denim market right now?

Pete Searson: The word “innovative” speaks of newness or the feeling that something has not been done before. In my eyes, this is a bit ironic since so much of what we love about denim has to do with the way men wore jeans in the past. We think about this every day and apply this ethos to our life and brand.

One big difference for us is the fit. We are not trying to replicate fits from 75 years ago. We love the analog life but feel a modern spin is necessary to fit our needs. Not modern in the sense of what is fashionable now, but modern in the way the music we listen to that was made 30 years ago still sounds incredible, even if it didn’t get released until now.

The innovation you are speaking of comes in the way so many men are thinking differently about the way they wear jeans these days. Less is more. DIY. No sand blasting. No chemically treated jeans at the factory. We convert people all the time, and once they have the tools to rethink the denim in their life, they will not and do not go back to pre-distressed, heavily manipulated pants that happen to be made from denim ever again!

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The Ladbroke Grove slim-tapered fit

RD: How would you characterize the general attitude of raw denim consumers at the moment?

PS: The piece of this pie may not be visible to the naked eye. Meaning, the raw denim man is there but barely there. This is in comparison to the rest of the world and their denim purchasing power. The good news is that pie slice is still big enough for us to exist and grow, and since we are committed to specialty shops around the world and not big-box department stores or commercial chain stores, we will not need it to become a dominant culture.

The people we speak with and meet along the way who are into this life are very passionate about their own lives. From the good food they put into their bodies, to the movies they see, to the places they travel. They are excited to share their experiences and denim has something special about it that makes them want to share their stories with us. I think it has everything to do with the fact that the good things in life get better with age.

It sounds cliche to say, but it is true. Denim is a fabric built for the tough life, and it so happens to be dyed indigo, which ages beautifully, much like a good leather bag or wallet. The fact that these raw denim consumers are constantly monitoring their jeans as they age, take photos of the process, etc… is a real testament to the hard work we do and to those like us who strive to make things the right way. Beyond denim, we share some common ground with these people that goes into other aspects of our lives that we hold dear to each of us: music, food, sarcasm, cars, whatever.

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Todd Blubaugh: photographer, motorcycle rider, and friend of Tellason


RD: What are your thoughts on the many brands entering the market right now?

PS: It was five years ago when we were that new brand entering the market. Let’s face it: we are all consumers and have a certain taste level. I love to see any new brand having a go at it as long as the first thing you see is a single-minded thunderbolt pointed at making the best shoe, belt, hat, jean, or shirt possible.

These new makers who focus on one thing because it is the only thing that keeps them getting out of bed in the morning give some great mojo to this landscape of ours, and we hope all of them have a chance to gather a tribe of followers. If I were a big brand trying to make everything in every category, I would be a little nervous since there is so much love out there for people who make one item so well.

The focus is undeniable and their attention to detail is no accident, and with the details of these maker’s lives so available, they are able to find people who want to spend their money with companies that have not forgotten what it is like to have a soul behind the brand. Maybe someone is committed to the “made in the U.S.” cause. Well, they now ask the question, “Where is this made?”  I am one of those people and recently asked my tire salesman if he had any tires for my car that were made in the U.S. He pointed to the one that he had and that is what I bought.

pete innovation usa tag

RD: Anything you would like to add?

PS: Buy quality. Support your local shops. Give a damn about where things are made. Listen to the Clash today.

Many thanks to Pete for his willingness to give us his two cents. You can learn more about Tellason on their website. We’ll be continuing our series, so keep an eye out for the next installment.