Raw denim jeans can be expensive. In some cases, really expensive. We get it. Not everyone can casually drop $250 on a pair of jeans without batting an eye. That’s especially true if you’ve never even owned a pair of raw denim jeans before. Thankfully, there are some entry level options out there if you want to ease into the indigo waters but don’t necessarily have the cash to splash.
Valencia, the third largest city in Spain after Madrid and Barcelona, is home to Alex G. Llop, founder of entry-level denim brand, Agreste. A subtropical city with a Mediterranean climate, some people call it the Los Angeles of Europe. Like Los Angeles, Valencia is very familiar with denim and has actually been making jeans for decades. A great deal of their denim expertise is thanks to Lois, a denim brand that started in the early 1960s and had its boom in the 1970s. They’re still around but are no longer making their jeans in Valencia. Though Agreste is new to the blue jeans block, their production team are industry Valencia veterans.
“Spain is the home of Inditex (owners of Zara), the giant of ‘fast fashion’ and our consumption habits are very different. Here virtually nobody knows what selvedge or raw denim is. People do not spend € 200 on their raws,” says Llop.
Catching wind of the resurgence of quality denim that was taking hold over in the United States, Llop got his start in denim thanks to his love of motorcycles. Researching vintage photos of motorcycle culture, he took note of the clothing he’d seen along the way — boots, leather jackets, and, of course, selvedge denim. Naturally, quality clothing and local production were part of the rabbit hole which he’d discovered. Even further down the rabbit hole is Agreste.
The fabric that they use comes mostly from Italian mills, Candiani and Berto, and weighs in at around 13oz., a good weight for those just starting out. They keep things nice and tidy, too, with felled inseams and tucked belt loops. They come with a natural vegetable-tanned leather patch so you can patina with your pals and not feel left out. Custom copper rivets and buttons so you know they’re not just slapping generic hardware onto it. Finally, cotton herringbone pocket bags and de rigeur chainstitch hems round out the details. With price points that hover around $140USD, that’s still a considerable step up from $40 jeans you get at the mall. But, with all those details in an entry-level jean that’s also made locally in Valencia, that’s more value up front and long-term.
Currently, Agreste operates as an online-only one-man brand, mixing digital innovations with Valencia’s tradition of craft. “Being a native digital brand means efficiency. We live in a society with no time to go shopping. Online shopping is growing and growing, so to start a new brand using an obsolete business model makes no sense to me. Being in retail is very expensive, and this cost is paid by the customers one way or another.”
Keeping things direct-to-consumer maintains the lower prices, and also allows Agreste to focus on their customers, keeping their ears close to the ground in order to deliver what this novice sector is looking for.
Perhaps Agreste will be able to revive Valencia’s love for jeans once again, but at a higher level. Inditex is an overwhelming goliath in the fashion industry, but not insurmountable. And with the handful of small, independent jean-makers showing the same passion for denim in the States, hopefully Agreste will take off in Spain as well, acting as their gateway to quality clothing.
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