Saturday, July 18, 2009


[part one here]

When the Product was the Message

Our research has been taking us allover the place this season. Lucky us. Sessioning with a Russian & US military uniform expert in Berlin, digging through the archive of an RAF & Royal Navy collector outside Paris... In an odd twist entering the inner-sanctum of a Tokyo collector specializing in turn-of-the-century US western and workwear only later to get the down-low on Japanese textiles from an American in Brooklyn (passion for garment history effectively folding the map pressing the East right up against the West). During these exploits we've curated some incredible new research material for the DGL.

On the Button
A natural part of our design focus is the issue of utility. We consider denim and the related world of workwear to fall into the realm of Utility Tailoring. As such the development of very fundemental utilitrarian garment compenents provides endless fascination and inspiration. It allows us all here at Denham and any other label sharing this ambition to push things forward.

You can't get much more fundamental than a button. Our research recently reminded us of a time when utility was the point, and the product was the message.

Besides pushing performance in the area of durability, evolving concepts like the shank-assembly and split-ring attachement, buttons from the first golden era of workwear design spelled-out their intentions right down at the detail level. They litterally announced their design objectives.

This was the case whether they were aiming to wear well like anthracite, be strong & reliable, even as strong as granite or the rock of gibraltar.

If the intention was to ensure you'd never ripum (or alternatively be rip proof), they'd deliver sure service, offer a true fit, have the brand take responsibility to watch the wear, load nuff stuff into the construction so you could think of them as ironalls instead of overalls... -if they made the effort to sanforize or use 8 oz shrunk, then they engraved or embossed that promise where it couldn't be forgotten. Deep into the product. Somewhere along the line, well after this period, the "message" became so disassociated from the product that the marketing took on a life entirely of its own. But these examples are from before all the extravagant aspirational lifestyle claims and media hype, when product and message were less detached from one another. Simpler times we guess.

Not to mention the obvious attention to balancing tradition with invention (our own modest obsession), using a traditional button but upgrading the durability by exchanging the convention of weak threads for inventive steel rings. Given all this its a daunting task to try and push it even further forward but we've got resources now they didn't have back. Maybe only little things, like investing in solid castings where they were restricted to hollow two-part plus bent-wire assemblies. Every little step contributes something and the more history we experience the more we're inspired to keep pushing.