“Typically, the most popular denims in the world will be a 3-by-one right-hand twill weave, 10 to 12 ounces, red cast (vs. green cast), and – at this time – vertical slubs rather than cross hatch,” Scott Morrison said, standing facing a wall of Wingfly Textile in his SoHo store, 3×1. He had not been speaking in tongues; he was in brief the language of denim. Morrison grew up in Rancho Mirage, California, played golf as a kid, went to the University of Washington to play golf on a scholarship, drafted a business plan in college to launch a golf company, then finally transferred to New York in 1997 and began in on denim.
He got to the party in the perfect time. “I remember going and purchasing a set of Replay Jeans and exploring the inside and going, ‘Holy shit, what exactly is Made in Japan? Japanese Denim? Japanese Wash?’ These people were $125, which at that time was $25 more expensive than some other product they were making.” It was an advantageous enlightenment; through the late ’90s – Morrison places it around 1999 – onward, premium denim continues to be booming. What started with Earl Jean, Frankie B and his Paper Denim & Cloth then moved into 7 For All Mankind, JBrand, True Religion. Then this wave really caught on and leading up to the present premium denim companies have started ad infinitum.
Back in 1999, Morrison and Ken Girard, head of Cone Mills product development, traveled to Japan. Morrison said that at that time, the Cone Mills selvedge shuttle looms in North Carolina were still. Selvedge, or “self-edge” denim (so named for that tightly woven band on the end of sheet of denim), was the classic style of denim – “it’s the record player of the denim industry,” said Morrison – and Cone Mills is probably the founding fathers of the fabric. Starting in 1891, these people were a premier fabric manufacturer, and through the early and mid-1900s, they made only one kind of denim: selvedge denim on shuttle looms. But as technology evolved as well as the economy demanded faster, cheaper denim, the brand new rapier, projectile and air jet looms took over production.
When Morrison and Girard headed to Japan, no one was ordering the slower, more costly selvedge denim manufacturer. “At the time, the big brands, Gap, J.Crew, Esprit, Levis, Lee, Wrangler – each of the American brands were dedicated to this moderate price point.”What Morrison present in Japan were mills centering on premium denim from the sort Canada And America once made. He remembers it being better across the board, from fabrics to sewing to clean. And it also left an impression. “My dogs were named after Japanese denim mills – Kurabo and Nishimbo. I used to be a little obsessed, to put it mildly.”
After that trip, Morrison’s travels in Japan (and also in Italy) continued, as did his study of premium denim manufacturing. He believed he wasn’t the only person who’d buy into this domestically born, internationally perfected practice. Morrison’s idea – shared by only a couple other premium denim companies at the time – was to bring this quality returning to American jeans. “The premise was, why can’t perform the same thing in the States?” said Morrison. He did, however it didn’t catch on straight away. He says his first couple of forays into offering selvedge denim failed miserably; customers weren’t ready for $250 jeans. He remembers that things which we ignore on jeans today – oven baking, 3D-whiskering, hand sanding, bleach sponging – didn’t even exist until the early aughts. But Morrison held his vision, and through two companies, Paper Denim & Cloth and Earnest Sewn, Morrison evolved with America’s interest in premium denim.
Finally, in the year 2011, he started 3×1, his most specialized project to date. 3×1, provides the largest choice of selvedge denim on earth. They may have, at any moment, 70 rolls of selvedge denim wholesale on their own “denim wall,” and through the years have introduced more than 1000 various kinds of selvedge denim, sourced from 22 different mills around the world. “The denim luhoxj the mills would be the rockstars from the shop,” Morrison said. 3×1 specializes in specialty, plus they meet the needs of a distinct, particular client. “I know our customer is the one guy that’ll walk in and become like, ‘That’s fu.cking awesome, that’s what I want,’” said Morrison.
To access that time takes a little bit of education. And without digging with the annals of denim geek forums, it requires a bit of translating. So, Morrison provided to provide a lay from the selvedge land – an introduction to things to consider when buying premium denim.