Article by Anthony O’Dell
Denim, it’s the only thing we wear everyday but has yet to see any real innovation since its inception in America over a century ago. Naked & Famous is breathing new life into this category by using Japanese fabrics to create blends with linen & silk denim and quirky styles such as the Glow in the Dark and 32 ounce Selvage Jeans. Over the Rainbow recently collaborated with Naked & Famous for their 40th anniversary on a special Kimono Capsule Series that consists of one pair of jeans, one jacket and two pocket tees. I got a chance to chat with Brandon Svarc (Head Designer) about how the collaboration came about, how they plan to expand their denim vision and finally settles the debate on how to clean your denim.
You got your start in marketing and you had your own PR Company. How did that translate to a denim company?
Brandon: The PR Company was a springboard for me, I was getting articles and features for different fashion brands and I was like shit, I want my own brand. It was very concept and story based so that’s why I built Naked & Famous Denim.
Your family has been in the denim business for generations. What’s the one thing that you’ve learned from that to help you build Naked & Famous?
Brandon: The one thing my grandfather told me is just make a better jean than your competitors at a better price. To offer product value instead of celebrity and advertising value, we don’t do any of that we just make a badass jean.
How did you start working with Over the Rainbow?
Brandon: I was 24 and just got into selvage jeans. I decided to come to Toronto and knock on some doors. I went to a guy named Hershey Weinberg. I showed him all the jeans, we did an 18-ounce Big Slub denim the first season and he’s looking at it like WTF is this! He said I can’t sell this jean gut I’m going to call up the owner of Over the Rainbow and see if he can meet you. Joel (Over the Rainbow owner) wasn’t available at the time but he left a message. An hour later, Joel calls and says, “Where are you? Be here in 15 minutes and I’ll give you five minutes”. I drive as fast as I can over and he takes me upstairs to the office. I give him the hundred mile an hour pitch and eventually he said, “Brandon I think you’re fucking crazy and that’s why I’m going to buy it”.
Do you remember the first styles you sold to them?
Brandon: Our entire first collection was six styles, the Skinny Guy Black Powder Stretch, which we still have, the Skinny Guy Silk-Blend denim, as well as the Weird Guy Indigo Selvage, The Weird Guy Rigid Blue, The Slim-Guy 18 Ounce Denim and a Black Selvage Straight fit.
Can you tell us a bit more about the collaboration with Over the Rainbow?
Brandon: They came to us wanting something unique and something that ties everything in. We decided on a Kimono print, which is seen on the pocket tee, the yoke on the denim jacket and the yoke & coin pocket of the jeans too. It ties everything together with the Japanese theme but is also perfect for the summer time release.
You’re known for not only having a high quality product but a reasonable price point compared to other brands. What do you think separates a $100 pair of jeans to a $300 pair?
Brandon: We’ve done $1500 jeans but they’ve been 100% cashmere so if you’re going to make expensive jeans it should be worth it. William Rast for example has admitted that they’re selling glamour, so that’s why some jeans are $300 & ours are $140. We make it in Canada and use some of the most expensive fabrics in the world but we don’t rip anyone off. We also don’t have any agents or distributors; it’s me, my sister, my sales manager and my other sales staff that do all the sales so there’s no distributor taking a mark-up. When we import the fabric from Japan we pay 0% duty because there’s no one in Canada that makes denim fabric but when you bring in a fabric from Italy or China that’s 18% import duty. So that’s one of the ways we can offer the best product value.
Denim is a commodity that can traditionally be stagnant but you’re known for having eccentric styles such as the reflective and scratch n’ sniff denim. What’s your thought process when designing a collection?
Brandon: I just want to do things that are fun! I just try to tap into being a kid, when your imagination goes wild. When I was a kid I had these glow in the dark stickers and the little scratch n sniff book, so that’s what we did. That’s what we try to do make stuff that’s fun and full of imagination.
How do you wash denim?
Brandon: The rule is there are no rules. Some guys may be extreme and never wash their jeans and there’s another guy that washes his jeans every time and they’re both right. If you want a really nice, contrasted fade jean, hold out for as long as you can. Or this other crazy concept to wash them when they get dirty!
Denim is a very personal fabric as it’s one of the only items people wear 7 days a week. Can you tell us a bit about your favourite pair of jeans?
Brandon: Personally, I wear the more basic stuff. If someone asked what’s my favourite creation, it’s probably this one (32 Ounce Denim), which is the heaviest pair of jeans in the world. It took two years to develop it; it’s really the Mount Everest of jeans.
You guys are in apparel as well, are there any other categories you’re looking to branch out too?
Brandon: I was thinking of making suits, we made suits a while ago but the factory we were using closed down. I think it would be really awesome to make some suiting. I found this beautiful supplier of wool-denim so if we could make some beautiful wool-denim suits I think that would be awesome! We’re going to do some Canadian fleece stuff (sweats, hoodies etc.) all made in Canada.