Denim fans may already be familiar with British newcomer Dawson Denim. Founded in 2012, based on the South Coast, Kelly Dawson and Scott Ogden run a small-scale workshop full of fascinating vintage machinery, producing beautiful, unfussy selvedge jeans and aprons that should satisfy the fussiest of consumers and geekiest of geeks. We caught up with the pair at their Brighton studio to chat, well, denim of course, and take a look behind the scenes. Head to the gallery and read on for more.
Images: Ivan Ogilvie/Selectism
How did Dawson Denim come about?
Dawson Denim came about from a desire to make products that we would want to own, employing traditional techniques and working for ourselves.
Can you tell us a little about your backgrounds?
Kelly has sixteen years experience, specialising in denim. She has gained experience in design, laundries, manufacturing, weaving and product management. I have a background in photography and design.
Everything you make comes straight out of your Brighton workshop, can you describe the production process for a pair of jeans?
We are a lateral production unit by which we manage the whole product development. We start by selecting the right denim, sketching the style and noting the main measurements. We then cut a pattern by hand. We test the pattern by making a sample, we usually make many amendments in order to reach a perfect fit. Then we start cutting, we still do this by hand using the old fashioned method of shears and elbow grease. We then stitch the garment together using all of our various vintage sewing machines, these include a 1957 cover stitch, a 1959 union special hemmer. All our twin needling is done by hand as it would have been originally. This allows us to be as accurate as possible, no part of the process is without its own quality checks. Once the garment is stitched we attach the metals such as our die cast buttons and our two prong fly buttons, all attached manually. We then do our final checks and if we are happy the swing tickets and log book are attached.
Can you talk us through your Regular fit jeans?
Our regular fit jeans have a classic mid-fifties silhouette with a high rise and a straight leg. The denim we use is 14.25 oz Japanese red line selvedge, ring spun cotton from America and Japan, dyed 16 times and pre-shrunk. The mill we use is over 110 years old and uses Toyoda looms which are still man operated. The threads we use are core spun, designed specifically for strength on denim products. The colour we selected was often used on British made jeans in the 1960’s. The waistband button is die cast which is heavier and more durable than pressed buttons, the fly buttons are attached with a two prong nail, a traditional style. The pockets are deadstock British Army khaki stamped 1945. The chrome leather patch is branded by hand.
What do you look for in a good pair of jeans and how has played into your own design?
In a good pair of jeans we look for the finer detail. This will include the weight of the denim, weave and dye quality and the build techniques such as hidden rivets and chain stitch hems. We are inspired by modernism and photography by the likes of Gary Winograd of the 1950’s and 60’s. Our personal style is relatively minimal – understated with subtle attention to detail is where we are at.
Are there any brands, past or present, that have influenced or inspired you in some way?
For me, as a gateway into premium denim, it was Levis selvedge 501’s in the 1990’s, when quality denim was hard to come by in the UK. However we look beyond other denim brands for our inspiration often drawing from vintage motoring and lifestyle.
What’s next for the brand? Any new products/cuts coming up?
We are always adding new lines and doing interesting custom jobs for people, right now there’s a new jacket on its way and a bag.