A Real Passion for Denim: Denim.lab
Denim.lab is a Dutch denim brand for real denim lovers. It’s part of a growing circle of brands that are currently bucking the price driven market by offering timeless products made with the denim spirit and tradition at heart. Instead of trying to constantly find new designs and an ever faster and cheaper supply chain, the founder Sander van de Vecht follows his own instincts and produces products he likes himself. His motto: the material comes first. Straight from Amsterdam Denim Days, he explains to FashionUnited how it works.
FashionUnited:What exactly is Denim.lab?
Sander van de Vecht: “Denim.lab produces high quality denim collections for men and children. All the material we use for our jeans is made on the classic looms, which is produced the same as Selvedge denim - the highest quality of denim you can get. It’s great to be able to work with such material! But the choice of material is only the first step. We dedicated a lot of time sourcing and combine the best parts for every piece of clothing we produce, such as a selection of Chambray material for the pockets, our cotton micro logo, which is made in France, the dull black studs and our Italian leather patches. And we usually sew our jeans with an indigo coloured thread, which blends into the colour of the jeans. Furthermore, we do not use plastic bags for packaging and every piece of clothing is delivered in a re-usable cotton bag. These details are important for our success and popular with both our customers and our dealers.”
Why did you found Denim.lab?
“In my opinion, there was not a lot on offer for men in the premium segment denim market. There are expensive denim brands, but do they really offer premium denim? I mean, what defines premium denim? The expensive photo shoot and the famous designer name, or the product and what goes into it?”
What is so special about denim – what made you decide to work with denim?
“I am fascinated by the endless potential of denim. Denim, and the many passionate people I work with, never bore me. The many journeys and the constant search for new materials and opportunities can become very, very addictive.”
How did it start exactly?
“I worked for over 15 years for brands like Pepe Jeans, JC Rags, Gsus, Tommy Hilfiger und Gaastra Blue, and it was somehow inevitable that I would start my own business. Five years ago, I founded Denim.lab Productions, an agency which designs and produces denim collections for other brands and retail store chains. From that, the brand emerged. At first Denim.lab was intended for other designers and private label customers. Then we started to deal in denim remnants, which I would find on my sourcing journeys and buy and sell through our webshop. Whenever I liked something, I produced new jeans from it, selling them online and at events. Our childrens’ label Mini.lab started off just the same way. Finally, I began to sell Denim.lab products to some local Dutch menswear shops, and that went very well. Today we serve customers in Great Britain, Germany, The Netherlands, Belgium and Japan.”
Denim.lab only offers menswear, why?
“Half of the people in the world are men, that’s reason enough for me. But in earnest, men - and above all my male denim customers - are more reliable and they value a pair of great jeans much more and for much longer than women do. Women’s fashion changes much too fast for me.
Denim.lab does not follow the trend of producing at least two collections a year. Why not?
“I don’t think that denim should be dictated by the four seasons or by four deliveries a year. Most collections of jeans can be sold throughout the year and over a longer period of time. That's especially important now that the demand for denim has decreased significantly and the stores need more time to work with an assortment of denim. A reliable NOS system is very important to me as well. On average, we keep six styles in store with a weekly replenishment order. So what that means is: for me, a high-end jeans brand is not dependent upon a marketing budget. Instead, everything goes into the product, the material, the leather, the metal, the re-usable packaging...and that is exactly what the independent dealer will need in the future. The big marketing brands will open their own stores anyway – if they have not already done so long ago.”
Denim.lab is slow fashion. How exactly do you work?
“My collection is dependent on the sourcing. I only use what I really like. That’s why we use Selvedge denim for jeans, shirts and even jackets. In rare cases, we also us other materials, such as blends with wool and other special fabrics. If a product is good, it will stay good – even over several seasons. So we keep the collections as simple as possible. We have three basic shapes of denim, the tight fit, the straight and the Chino. We have a shirt, a jacket and two jacket type coats. All these styles stay in the collection and we only change the material when it’s necessary.”
Where do you produce the products?
“We mainly source and produce in two places: Japan and Thailand. In both locations, there is a lot of know-how in the field of Selvedge denim production.”
Where do you get your Inspiration from?
“I travel every couple of weeks, visit mills and factories, go to fabric stores and look for remnants which we can use. But I also like working directly with the weavers and developing my own ideas. Together, all of that is very inspiring for me. Also, meeting the sales teams in the various countries and talking to my customers about what they liked can set new ideas in motion.”
You also sell Selvedge denim in your webshop. What type of customer buys your denim material?
“We sell it to all sorts of customers: tailors, bag makers, hobby craftsmen, fashion students, cobblers, etc. Basically, it’s of interest to anyone who needs between 3-300 metres of material. But we also sell larger quantities, if customers can’t find what they need.”
What is the mainstream trend in the denim branch right now?
“For women, I really like the Fabric Mix at the moment, from which this re-used look has emerged. It’s very fresh and has endless potential for development.”