Few people know denim like Vinh Le. The jean-maker has been working with the material for over two decades. By the age of 22 he’d opened his own denim factory, Vince Clothing, right in the heart of Brunswick, where he still works today.
“You have to love denim,” says Le. “It’s amazing. When you make something sewn and it comes out of the machine and you can feel it, you fall in love with it. I love that I can do that with denim.”
Le’s obsession with denim saw him team with Nobody Denim’s Leonie Rutherford in 2015 to launch premium brand, Denimsmith. In keeping with Le and Rutherford’s approach to ensuring high quality, Le and his team exclusively uses Japanese fabric sourced directly from a Japanese mill, which they then work by hand.
"I’ve worked with Japanese denim for around 20 years,” says Rutherford, who designs and sources all Denimsmith’s fabric. “What I like about Japanese denim is the strong Indigo colours when the jeans are worn down naturally. It’s also especially reliable in the finishing – or washing – process. There’s a lot of risk in this last process as the washing is completed in garment form, so you don’t want things to go awry."
For Le it’s about the pleasing tactile nature of Japanese denim. “The quality of the denim is nearly 100%,” he says. “It’s beautiful fabric. Not everybody can use Japanese denim because it's expensive. But we have a good relationship with the mill so that's why we can do it."
It also helps to know how to work with it. Despite Denimsmith's growing popularity, Le and his team have eschewed expansion in favour of keeping quality control over their craft. Even if in Le's case it means working seven days a week.
This also means rather than employing large-scale manufacturing techniques common in mass-produced brands, Denimsmith use a tactile approach of cardboard patterns to cut jeans by hand, customising them with sandpaper and hand tools to give them an aged appearance. This approach to material purity and personal detail means Le inspects the work at every step. “[When weaving] I reduce the speed [on the machine] slowly,” he says. “That way I can check the fabric. If there’s a mistake, you can’t sell it. You waste time and you waste fabric.”
This refined approach to producing high-quality Japanese denim garments isn’t recognised by every consumer Le admits. But the one’s that do notice it, return. “Some brands in the shops don’t have good quality control, but they have 50 years on the market so they already have the customer,” says Le. “We’re still really young. If people know about sewing and can compare our jeans, they can see the quality in ours straight away.”
This article is produced by Broadsheet in partnership with Kirin and the purity of its “First Press” brewing technique.