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How Billiam Jeans Is Preparing for a White Oak Shortage

Denim trends come and go, but Billiam Jeans stands behind the classic look of blue jeans and a white T-shirt.

The brand came to life in 2009 when founder Bill Mitchell began tailoring custom jeans from scratch with a used sewing machine purchased from Goodwill. Eight years later, the brand continues to offer consumers, both online and at its Greensville, S.C. store, the option to customize their denim, as well as an assortment of timeless pairings and handcrafted accessories. The brand offers core men’s and women’s denim pieces, including tailored slim jeans and jean jackets, ranging in price from $100 to $350.

Billiam Jeans’ customers favor the process of aging selvedge jeans the natural way, through wear and tear. Mitchell said shoppers gravitate most to the dark, mid-weight selvedges with 1 percent stretch from Cone Mills. “Everyone loves the initial color it starts off as, the hand of the material and how it fades over time,” he said.

Rigid denim may be in the spotlight now, but Mitchell warned that the rigid craze could come to a halt—involuntarily—because of a limited supply that followed in the wake of White Oak’s closure.

“Small brands like ours will sell through everything we have in the next few years because people are excited about getting the last of it, but the door is open to new materials that might take over where rigid has left off,” Mitchell said.

For Fall ’18, Billiam Jeans is introducing an athletic cut jean for men and a stove pipe straight leg jean for women. The brand is also making its first foray into knitwear with a “made in house” collection. The line includes basic crew neck and scoop neck tees in customizable lengths for men and playful, comfortable T-shirt styles for women.

“Our knitwear collection is based on the classics,” Mitchell said. “We wanted to give our customer, and the U.S. at large, a product made here with American cotton reflecting our past and extrapolating these ideas into the future.”

Rivet caught up with Mitchell to discuss Billiam Jeans’ journey, the future of rigid denim and why classic American denim style won’t call it quits anytime soon.

Rivet: What were some of your best-selling styles?

Bill Mitchell: We have been a custom jean company since 2009 and have mainly sold a service where you get measured, pick out your denim and have a pair built to your specs. The rise and fall of our company has been service but our material has remained important as well. For many years, our customer would only want 100 percent cotton denim but over the past years it has slowly began to shift to stretch, culminating in our best sold material, a 99 percent cotton 1 percent stretch from Cone Mills.

Rivet: Which washes are trending for Fall ’18?

BM: I am seeing a lot of washes on the market right now and ironically most people are telling me raw dark blue is impossible to find. Levi’s has recently come out with this laser fading system, which looks amazing and will change the market altogether, so that’s something to pay attention to. Our opinion is that dark blue is still what business men are looking for as jeans become acceptable attire in the workplace and maybe a light wash fade for women.

Rivet: What about fits?

BM: For women, 2017 was interesting for fits and trends. There were a lot of faded boyfriend cuts and unfinished hems were everywhere. Cropped jeans with a higher rise were really popular as well. I would say 2018 will be more of the same as leggings are really taking over the fitted side of the closet. For men in 2018, it will mean even more young guys graduating from skinnies to slims and men who are used to wearing straight legs going to slim because their wives are making them.

Rivet: Which trends are slowing down?

BM: Denim with vibrant colors seem to be falling out. I have seen many brands begin to sell yellows and light greens and I imagine that inventory will be on the sale rack before you know it. We believe the staple white T-shirt and dark or faded blue jeans is here to stay and will be a majority of 2018.

Rivet: What’s your overall prediction for the denim market in 2018?

BM: The denim market will be as strong as ever in 2018. People want what they can’t have and if you have inventory of Cone Mills, you will be just fine. Transparency is going to be key because at a certain price point, the story of the material must be told and if you do that correctly, your sales should be just fine.

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