INTERVIEW: BENZAK DENIM DEVELOPER (BDD)

Why and when did you start in love with Denim (especially raw denim)?

About 15 years ago, when I was still in high school, my first love for denim was created. There were these cool kids, wearing dark jeans with super high turn-ups. I really liked this look and I wanted that as well. It was especially this coloured edge that became visible after the turn-up that got my attention. I went to one of the local jeans stores in my home town and asked for these jeans. It was not difficult to explain, because they had big painted logo’s on the back pockets. This was my introduction to Evisu, and I soon learned that the coloured edge was called selvedge. Because they were quite expensive I didn’t buy them at first, but instead went for a pair of Lee 101z with half-selvedge. But it wasn’t till long until my uncle, who is pilot for KLM, brought me back an original pair of made in Japan Evisu’s back from his trip to Osaka. The more I educated myself by reading books and online articles, the more I started to love this type of high quality jeans.

How did you start BDD?

At the time I was 18 and already interested in denim and jeans for some years, I told myself: I want my own brand. I wanted to create a product with the same eye for detail and high quality features like Evisu, Denime, StudioD’Artisan etc. These were the first Japanese denim brands I got introduced to. I realized that I still needed to learn so much before launching my own brand, so the next step was going to AMFI (Amsterdam Fashion Institute) and learn about the fashion industry and how clothing is produced. The week after I graduated in 2008, I went to the Dutch Chamber of Commerce to register my own company, Benzak Design & Development. With this company I started working for other companies to develop and produce denim collections, and at the same time work on my own brand Benzak Denim Developers, albeit in a very small scale. Even though I had finished the 4-year education at AMFI, I didn’t feel confident to fully launch my brand. I also had no connections to any Japanese manufacturer. So I decided to focus my work for other companies, and try to learn as much as possible and build my network. In 2011, while on a production trip for a former employer, my patience was rewarded: I bumped into the Japan Blue guys (from Momotaro, Japan Blue, Rampuya), and told them my ideas to create this new Dutch denim brand, ‘created in Holland, crafted in Japan’. We started developing the first styles together, and in september 2013 the first collection was delivered to the stores.

What does BDD mean to you?

I see BDD as my child, which I created from scratch and slowly but steady evolve into that is getting bigger and bigger. I can put all my creativity in the brand. It started as a passion, but, even though it has grown to something much bigger, it is still based on passion and love for jeans.

Can you describe how to starting and running a denim brand?

I think you need to have a clear goal and work very hard towards that goal. For me this was producing jeans in Japan on the highest level. I always try to stay true to myself. For example, for my made in Japan line, I only create what I would like to wear myself. This way I am sure I only try to make the best, and people understand and see this. It gets them hooked to the product as well.

Who is the target market for BDD?

At first, the target market are men, who describe themselves as true denim nerds, lovers of the product, who are very particular about a certain stitch or construction. But with the introduction of my lower-priced made in Europe line (BENZAK – EUROPEAN MADE), the target group is expanded to not only the denim nerd, but also guys who appreciate a quality pair of jeans, without the geeky details.

Can you describe your creative process for BDD?

It always starts with fabric, I base my entire collection on the choice of fabrics. After that comes the fit. I work together with a pattern maker in Amsterdam, so together we create the fits and I send these pattern to the factories to create the first samples. I don’t change the details of my products much, so I do not spend much time on that. I am working on some rebranding though, but these are minor updates.

Where does BDD inspiration come from?

I try to combine historical details with modern day fits and shapes. Lee has always been a big inspiration to me; you even see that in the BDD logo and the back pocket stitch, I would never deny that. Then, when looking at fabric level (where the creative process starts), I always try to find interesting colour casts and construction, without going too crazy. For example, the heaviest BDD jeans is 16 oz.; to me this is enough. The perfect denim weight is 14 oz., in my opinion. This is also the weight of the BDD special #1: the first fabric that I developed together with Collect Mills and is a BDD exclusive fabric. I also love left hand twill, it fades with less sharp lines than right hand twill.

Can you explain what kind of BDD design/cutting?

BDD is about combining Japanese workmanship and construction with European modern day fits. All details have a function, otherwise it doesn’t make any sense to include something. In the made in Japan jeans there is a total of 7 different kind of yarns to be found (3 colour, and several thickness’); this creates depth in the jeans which makes it so much more interesting to look at when using only 1 colour.

All BDD jeans have a hidden 6th pocket, at the front pocket facing, opposite to the coin pocket. This idea about this extra pocket is that jeans are always evolving, with its user. 120 years ago, jeans were worn by mine workers and only had 4 pocket (only 1 back pocket). Because they needed more space, a 2nd back pocket was added. This was the birth of the 5-pocket jeans. Because we carry a lot of stuff with us nowadays (phone, wallet, keys, gum, sigarettes, lighter etc.) I saw the need for an extra pocket. I call this ‘the evolution of a classic’, from 5-pocket to 6-pocket jeans.

In total there are 4 different cuts in the Japan line: 2 slim fits and 2 regular fits. The EU line borrows 1 slim and 1 regular fit from the Japan line. All fits are made with a lot more shape than vintage jeans, and therefore better fitting.

Can you describe BDD range?

The made in Japan line is only about jeans, no other products. The made in Europe line has everything else. At the moment we only do tees and sweats, but the line will be expanded very soon with shirts, jackets and other clothing.

Please give us a tips how to maintain and make an incredible fade from BDD?

I would recommend waiting with the 1st wash for about 6-9 months. It depends a bit on the fabric, and how and where someone lives. The fabric of BDD jeans is very high so you put in the washing machine without any problem. Just make sure not to tumble dry the jeans, and preferably switch off the spin cycle option (if possible). Handwash is also fine but not necessary. Oh yeah, and always turn the jeans inside out. For normal fading 40 degrees is good, but you can also try 60 degrees for more contrast. Be aware that the jeans might shrink a bit after wash, so I would always measure the inseam before wash. When the jeans come out of the machine and are still wet, you measure again and stretch the legs back to the original length. After the 1st wash, I would recommend to wash the jeans every 3-6 months. Especially after the 2nd the beautiful vintage fading will become apparent! But in the end, if you want to wash the jeans more often, that is fine as well, the fabric is high quality and will keep its body. A lot of washing only creates less contrast fading. What I don’t recommend is not washing all. Not washing will turn into premature rips of the fabric. Essentially water stabilized the fibres, resulting in a longer lifespan.

What do you want to say to all denim heads around the world?

As a denim head myself, I want to thank you all and encourage everyone to keep the denim spirit alive! Let’s teach the next generation about our passion, so we can pass the torch one day!

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