Behind the Blues Interview Series: Brian Robbins from Denim Design Lab

by Jaime on April 21, 2010

My first time falling in love with selvedge denim was thanks to Brian. He found the site via Twitter, and I ended up getting a pair of DDLs (the 101-500-SL-W in Slim Fit True Vintage) which I then reviewed for all of you guys. But the best part about Brian has nothing to do with the jeans I received (okay… maybe a little). He’s been an amazing help for me and has tolerated me picking his brain, pitching ideas and just learning from him. 

Now, learn a little from him too!

How did you start Denim Design Lab, and what void in the industry do you feel like you’re filling?

DDL was created as a creative outlet. It just happened that the “canvas” I chose to create on and with was denim. I am not a great consumer, and really need to have a compelling reason to check out a new brand or concept. When I came up with the concept for Denim Design Lab (DDL), I really wanted it to grow from a unique point of view; something I’d never seen in the marketplace, and something creative free-thinking consumers could connect to. To help launch the brand, I came up with the concept of the “DDL Kit” (a consumer directed tool kit to customize &/or age your own denim), and more importantly, wrote a book covering the history of denim (the “Denim Design Lab”). I used these two very denim-centric items to help launch DDL Denim. We were able to generate a lot of interest and conversation, which made introducing a “new” denim line a bit easier… i.e., the DDL name was already circulating in the denim world before our first pair of jeans saw the light of day.

Rather than “fast fashion” and the “fit of the month,” DDL is positioning itself as a resource for vintage American workwear inspired denim, using only American made selvage denim, with a focus on superior craftsmanship and fit. Our designs are very subtle, with no superfluous pocket embellishments or unnecessary design elements. We feel “less is more” when it comes to serious premium denim, and we are catering to independent thinking consumers who are serious about investing in quality vs. fads.

What pair of DDL is your favorite for men? For women?

I love all of our styles…! But particularly, for men’s I would say I have been feeling our slim fit “black cast” raw selvage style (515-330-S-M) as I love the gray tones that come out when this particularly dark denim fades. For women’s, it is hard to beat the hand of our slim fit “Black Seed” Pima selvage in either the rinse or “True Vintage” wash…. I honestly do not think I have ever felt softer denim in my life.

… and what is your favorite pair of jeans overall?

For the most part, that would be the pair I’m breaking in at that time.

What was your first pair of designer denim (if you remember)?

The first pair I spent a considerable amount of money on, would have to have been one of Levi’s LVC replica styles… I do not recall which style it was though… have a few of them.

Why do you think women should start wearing raw and/or selvage denim?

With very few exceptions, selvage denim is just plain “better.” Styles made from selvage denim are usually more focused on the elements that go into a quality jean, as opposed to a simple “fashion” jean, so you are investing in a jean with a lifespan measured in years, rather than a couple of seasons. On the “raw” side, if you are starting with really high quality selvage denim, even when raw, they are not as “stiff” as you’d think. Even after just a couple of days of wear, they should be soft enough to find their place in your wardrobe. While I don’t see too many women being ready to put in as many “consecutive” hours, days, weeks & months to break in the same pair and age the denim as fast as possible, I do think you can still get a lot of enjoyment from watching the natural wear occur over a longer period of time… Either way, you can end up with a truly unique style if you put in the time.

If you had one personal tip for DD readers, what would it be?

Be yourself. Don’t follow trends too closely. Be inquisitive and really learn about the brands you support…. sorry… that was three things.

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