Raw denim is the term for denim fabric that is unwashed and untreated. The vast majority of jeans sold today are produced by washing and distressing the denim in order to create an artificial worn-in look.
We love raw denim for many reasons, but our favorite reason is how beautifully it will fade. Raw denim will fade naturally over time, just wear your raw jeans for as long as you can before washing them, beat them up and wear ‘em hard, and soon you will have a beautiful and personalised naturally faded pair of jeans.
Why do Raw Denims Fade?
The most common and cheapest yarn dyeing method is probably Vat Dyeing. This is where a dye-house will simply throw a bunch of yarn into a giant vat full of an indigo/chemical solution and shock the yarns with the dye. In contrast, our denim mill employs the more fascinating method of yarn dyeing called Rope Dying, where the yarns are suspended from very tall machines and dipped into an indigo bath, then removed and let dry. Once dry, the yarns are dipped again and the process is repeated up to 30 times! This process is more time consuming and more expensive, but the color and texture achieved is much more beautiful.
Why does rope-dyed denim fade more beautifully than vat-dyed mass-market denim?
The answer is in the distinction between the 2 dye methods. In vat dyeing, the yarns are shocked and the dye quickly and fully penetrates to the core of the yarn. But in rope-dyeing, the yarns are never left in the indigo bath long enough for the dye to fully absorb its way into the center of the yarn. So what you have is a yarn with a thick and beautiful build-up of indigo shell with a white core. As you wear your jeans for a few months and create folds and creases in the fabric, the indigo shell will start to break away and the beautiful white center will be revealed for a higher contrast and more impressive fade!
These old looms were commonplace in American denim mills from the late 1800's to the mid-1900's. In the 1950's, with the rising of youth culture, the birth of rock & roll and the creation of Hollywood celebrity culture, the mills soon abandoned these slower machines and adopted newer, faster, mass production facilities. Several Japanese mills were happy to pick up many of the discarded looms (and also made reproductions of the vintage machines) so that they could revive the art of making denim.
Selvedge denim is special because it is rare and expensive, because it cannot be mass-produced, and because each yard of denim is a unique piece of wearable art. Just flip up the cuff of your jeans or look inside the coin-pocket to see the neat white & blue “self-finished edge” (hence the term selvedge), which is the “proof” that this denim is made on a shuttle loom and not a new mass-production loom.