It was 1999, I was 27 years old, and I took a couple flights from NYC to Evansville, Indiana, and then drove 30 minutes into the tiny town of Henderson, Kentucky. I remember counting the number of states I'd entered in order to get there (4), and I'll never forget turning the corner and driving down Main Street to arrive at my final destination: Sights Denim Systems. It was there that I had my first 'laundry' experience, and for a young guy who's learning his way around the denim industry, it was like going to MIT or Stanford right out of Elementary School.
Sights Denim was simply the most incredible laundry in the world at the time, perhaps rivaled only by Martelli SPA in Italy. This was the place where the the best of the best in the denim world came to develop new ideas, new collections, test fabrics, chemicals and processes. This was an innovation lab, and although I was just getting a taste of it, it showed me a glimpse of what was possible. It was that first visit to 'the laundry' which gave me the confidence to think that I might be able to start something of my own, and as any jean designer will tell you, a good laundry is a true game changer. Six months later I started my first brand, and I have to say that from the launch of Paper Denim & Cloth that year, through the first 5 years of Earnest Sewn, and from the inception of 3x1, I've been blessed to work with only the best.
As I'm sure most people know, the laundry (which is really a two part process of Dry Abrasion and Wet Processing) is probably the most critical element to how your jean is going to look and feel. Obviously it starts with the denim, but a lot can be done to tell the story of your new favorite pair, and much of that story is created there. Dry Abrasion is all about hand sanding, grinding, whiskering, chevrons, starbursts, keys and knees. It's where all the simulated character gets fully imagined and hand applied. From there your jean is moved into Wet Processing which includes any number of steps and processes: stone-washing, enzyme washing, bleaching, resin applications, oven baking, etc. and the combined outcome, when done well, is incredible. Starting from a raw jean and making it look like a well-worn vintage garment, all in less than 24 hours ... it's pretty amazing to see, and as a designer, it's even more amazing to have that opportunity to experiment, develop and refine.
Get ready - more great washes coming soon at 3x1!
Photo: Scott sitting in a 1200 lb. machine at U.S. Garment, which can wet-process up to 300 jeans at a time.