superchat london: jason denham

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jason denham is the founder and creative 'jeanius' behind denham jeans, a brand concerned with honouring this staple product whilst constantly pushing it forward through impeccable design and ingenuity. having worked in the industry for over 15 years, denham is the man-in-the-know when it comes to anything related to the world's favourite fabric. with stores already established in amsterdam and tokyo, jason has finally returned to his hometown to set up the latest installment in his enterprise in the heart of london's shoreditch area. superfuture had the pleasure of talking to him about his most recent venture and what it means to him to be back in old blighty.*

what made you decide to open a store in london? since i initially left london it has taken me a very long time to come home. it was a strange journey via amsterdam and tokyo but i got here eventually. i think it’s a combination of things: the timing is right, my brand is right and the location is right. what we have in amsterdam is a great store in the [creative] heart of the city and likewise with tokyo where we have a store in daikanyama. we wanted to ensure we were somewhere with the same vibe and being based in shoreditch specifically, really seems to encapsulate our audience. i definitely feel like there’s energy here again. when i walk around this part of the town and i experience the people, the stores, the design studios and the creative agencies. generally, i really feel like london’s back again. it feels great for me to be back home in blighty!

are you still going to be based in amsterdam? yeah, the headquarters are in amsterdam, we keep the whole team there. what i love about amsterdam is we have a great combination of people and designers in our team who are from all over the world and i like that sort of international flavour. never say never, i may come back to london at some point to live full-time, but for the time being i will certainly be spending a lot more time over here.

so now you’ve established the london store, where’s next? we're trying to establish ourselves in the very important creative centres across the world. we’re looking at great locations in antwerp at the moment, and ofcourse paris as there are so many interesting things going on there.    

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i know that you’re a big fan of japan. what is it about that place that inspires you? well, i consider japan to be the planet's ultimate denim nation. this is due to the japanese public's understanding the product better than anyone else in the world. they understand the weight of the fabric, the colour, the cast, how is washes, how to wear it. being so educated on this front makes a big difference. however, the rest of the world is catching up quickly and i feel like right now i’m proud to be based in amsterdam as it stands as the denim capital for europe. if you look at creatively what’s happening in europe, and amsterdam specifically, there are a lot of great denim boutiques, stores, brands based here. even some of the worlds biggest companies like levi's have moved their design and creative teams there to be a part of that scene. and what i love about london is that whilst denim is important, consumers are also concerned with style, culture and attitude which makes it special and exciting.

why are the netherlands such fertile ground for denim design? i’ve lived there for 15 years so i’ve really watched the culture and how it's grown and developed. when i first moved there, the first thing i noticed was that denim is part of everyday life. the dutch eat jeans for breakfast, lunch and dinner! it's great if you love jeans, not so much if you like dressing up. as a result of this passion for denim it makes the dutch, like the japanese, very educated in jeans. the retailers and designers are aware of this, meaning they have to provide good products and services. i think that fundamentally it comes down to the passion of the consumer and this is why i have been there the last 15 years and chose it as the location to set up my company.

the design of jeans has always been rooted in the context of utilitarian and workwear. your products incorporate sartorial elements - could you see your designs evolve into pure fashion products? i think that when referred to as ‘products’ it does sound like work ware and gives our clothes an industrial feel but when you take into consideration the nature of the design, the integrity and the way we present our jeans, they are of course seen as fashion products. we believe the richness is in the detail, which is a key signature for our design, and we also talk about ‘worship tradition and destroy convention’. that philosophy encompasses its roots but by aiming to destroy convention we are moving things forward giving it fashion undertones. primarily for us it’s about making great products – we don’t strive to be current or disposable or fashionable – those are not things we really aim for. our aim is to make products that will last and have longevity.

what kind of brands do you like when shopping? i’m interested in brands of the past and the future. so when i go shopping i love looking at everything from vintage furniture and cars to modern architecture to great books. i’m a collector of everything and i love visual stimulation. hopefully you can tell by the presentation of the store and the building that we are located in that aesthetics are very important to me. i think if i wasn’t involved in denim i’d like to do something related to furniture or design or interiors. that’s my second passion.

* this superchat was held in october 2010 but could not be published earlier due to unforeseen circumstances

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