"It’s incredible that a product created in 1850 is still the most popular product worn by everybody today," enthuses the Amsterdam-based British jeanmaker, Jason Denham, in the opening lines of his mini-documentary, The Truth Is in the Details. Denham, and his namesake brand, DENHAM the Jeanmaker, is in the spotlight this year as it celebrates 10 years.
The brand is marking the occasion with 10 collaborations, known as the 10 Special Projects, released on the corresponding month of 2018. From a special edition Japan-exclusive Converse Jack Purcell to a furniture collection with NORR11, a capsule collection with iconic English heritage label Barbour, a reconstructed denim collaborative release with Alljan Moehamad's Atelier Reservé label, a Japanese indigo sake, and even a collaboration with a French perfumer, among many others, the 10 Special Projects speak to the label’s values, as well as Jason Denham’s own individual tastes and eccentricities. They also manage to hit each of the five senses, just as an added bonus.
"What I wanted to do was use the 10 year anniversary as an opportunity to create 10 collaborations or 10 stories about things that I love," explains Jason over the phone from his studio in a wintry and gray Amsterdam. "For instance, when we launched DENHAM back in 2008, we made our own sake as a gift for our first customers with the renowned Japanese sake maker, Hiro san, whose family has been making sake for 17 generations," he explains, adding that it seemed right they collaborated again after 10 years, this time with Hiro using extracts from an edible blue Japanese flower to make the DENHAM x Hiro Indigo Organic Sake—and the first ever blue sake made by the expert sake brewers.
The first collaboration however is A Decade of DENHAM, a large, premium, coffee table tome wrapped in indigo canvas and published through one of DENHAM's neighbors, friends and close collaborators, the independent 'Dam book store, MENDO.
Sitting around the corner from Denham's studio and store, the two businesses have always had a certain synergy, according to Denham. The craftsman and his team often buy books and magazines at MENDO, while the MENDO crew, in turn, get their jeans from DENHAM. Even though they've already worked on a book together for DENHAM’s fifth birthday, "this time it’s a lot more informative, about how we built the brand, and the journey we’ve been on," explains Denham. "I’ve kind of written my story about how we’ve got to where we are."
Born in Gateshead in England’s north-east, Jason Denham went to art school in 1988 "studying everything to do with art and design" for two years. While studying, he was sifting through thrift stores and customizing his own threads. But when faced with a split between pursuing his twin loves of either graphic design or continuing down the fashion route, he chose fashion, ending up at Manchester University from 1990 to 1994.
"That was the perfect time to be in Manchester as the whole Haçienda, 'Madchester’ music scene really kicked in," he explains. "It had a big impact on fashion at that time. You know the culture, and the club scene, and also the fashion sense became very graphic but also very street style. Denim was a big thing too of course," he adds. Was it that fact, coupled with his own love of customizing his clothes, that then led him into denim? "Well denim is something I’ve always been into," he admits. "I mean it’s a bit of a cliché, but Denham, my family name… It’s kind of meant to be."
Inspired by this time, as well as the work of legendary British fashion designers Joe Casely-Hayford and Paul Smith, in 1996 Denham began working for Pepe Jeans in London. And then, in a move that shifted his career, he was quickly transferred to Amsterdam for a six month stint. Half a year turned into two full years and in 1998, he left Pepe Jeans to set up his own denim consultancy in the Dutch capital, Clinic+, and began work with major international fashion houses. Four years later, Denham then co-founded the Blue Blood denim brand before selling his stake to begin work on his namesake label, DENHAM the Jeanmaker, which he established in 2008 with his wife and business partner, Debbie.
"It sounds crazy but those 10 years are a long time really," says Denham. "But in our industry today—and we all know how fast it’s going and what’s happening—I think it’s a pretty good achievement."
Just at the point when the gym-to-street athleisure fad began to fade, Denham’s short film, The Truth Is in the Details, dropped in late 2016 and captured the renewed interest in the humble workwear (and style) staple.
"So when I launched in the first season, it was very stiff, rigid, 14 ounce Japanese selvage, unwashed jean, which was heritage and all part of that trend at the time," explains Denham. "But what we’ve done as a brand is evolve, and we've grown with great weaving mills like Candiani [the Milan-based denim mill Denham’s worked with since its first season]. It’s incredibly sustainable [denim], but it's also incredibly technical and advanced.
"And, of course, trends have moved and changed, and denim today compared to what it was 10 years ago is completely different because of the performance and technology that we build into denim fabric."
Which leads us into DENHAM’s second collaboration, hitting stores February. Unveiled during this season’s Pitti Uomo last week alongside the book, the DENHAM x 10 Year Candiani Golden Selvedge collection honors the two’s long standing relationship. Through three limited edition styles—two washes of DENHAM’s Razor jean for men, and one wash of the women’s Monroe—five golden tickets for two will be placed randomly inside the pockets of the 'golden selvedge' jean and will hit the stores in February 2018. Inspired by Jason Denham’s favorite movie, 1971’s Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, the ticket grants the winner an all-expenses paid weekend break to the Candiani mill and Milan.
"But this book and all these collaborations really capture everything, I think," he adds. "The truth in the details in everything that we do. Of course it's in the product, and of course it's in our design—it's in everything."
For more on DENHAM's 10 Special Projects, jump to the site for all the info and how to purchase.