Where the runway meets the street

UK denim brand Tender are one of my favourite new brands out, we like what they do and how they do it. So when we got a look at their collection we decided to look a bit deeper and ask William Kroll, Tender’s founder, a few questions about the collection. Pictures of the collection and the resulting Q&A are after the leap.

Can you tell me a bit more about the new materials in this collection?
As well as continuing to use a lovely unsanforized Japanese selvage denim, for the new collection I’ve found a great English-woven raw cotton No4 duck (duck numbers refer to canvas weight, 4 is equivalent to 15oz). As always, hand dyeing is a big part of Tender’s project – here we have T-shirts, henleys, jeans, and jackets hand dyed in Mexican logwood, or bloodwood, which produces a rich black.

Why have you chosen said new materials?

I love the stories behind historical materials and methods – logwood was the main black in use before synthetic dyes, brought into Europe by the Spanish. It was so valuable that British privateers attached Spanish galleons specifically for their cargo of logwood – Samuel Pepys wore logwood-dyed ‘black cloth’, as did the early American puritans.

How does the Tender ethos work when it comes to expanding the collection?

I think it’s really important to take it slowly: the collection is getting bigger each season, but it’s still very tight. If a product doesn’t seem special enough, even if it’s nice, then at the moment I’m holding back. I make all the first samples myself, and a piece will only go into the collection if it feels right, and I’ve really worked over every aspect of it. I like to have a one-in-one-out rule- if I think of a detail to add to something, I’ll take something else off, so clothes hopefully don’t end up over-designed. In the new season there are a few new accessories, and more outerwear, so hopefully it’s becoming more of a full collection, in its own way.

I’ve noticed that a lot of the accessories are hand cut, why is this so?
I’m lucky enough to be working with some amazing materials and craftsmen, like oak bark tanned stirrup leather and hand cast brass, so a lot of what the accessories are about is just allowing the materials to speak for themselves. On a belt, for instance, if you machine cut, the belt is pressed out – this forms a curve on the cut edge of the leather, where the tooling has pressed down. This can then be buffed or bevelled out, but if you hand cut, the edge stays square- this might seem ‘unfinished’, but as it’s worn the raw leather on the cut edge will darken and take on the indigo from your jeans, the oils from your hands, it will stretch into a curve as it sits on the wearer’s hips. Also, hand cutting will not give a perfect edge, so the
craft of the person cutting each belt, bag, or pouch becomes evident in the product. Finally, Tender’s production runs are so small (often only a handful, and almost all within the tens), that it’s not sensible to have tooling made up when a better product with more soul can be produced by hand.

Why the soap?

The soap is hand made in England using woad oil. Woad is the plant from which European natural indigo is extracted, for dyeing Tender’s T-shirts and henleys. The dye comes from the leaves, but the seeds of the woad plant are very high in fatty acids, which make wonderfully moisturizing soap, so it seemed like a nice thing to do. In terms of expanding the collection this may seem like a strange step after only two seasons, but it feels like it really brings something new to the range. The soap itself is perfumed with pure vetiver extract, from the roots of an Indonesian grass, which gives it a lovely smokey, whiskey and cedar scent. Then it’s wrapped in waxed paper and packed in an English-woven calico bag, hand made in London, copper rivetted, and hand stamped.

What are some of the plans for the brand in the future?
I’m lucky enough that things seem to be going in the right direction, with wonderful shops taking Tender on, so really it’s just about keeping on slowly building up new products that seem to fit, and experimenting further to continue to evolve what’s already in the line. As Tender gains its own identity it’s exciting to see how things fit in with its framework.

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