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Companion Founder Iu Franquesa on the Pandemic-Immune Appeal of Custom Denim

Custom denim may be one of the few businesses that has remained largely unaffected by the Covid-19 pandemic.

In fact, for Iu Franquesa, founder and owner of Spanish denim brand Companion, demand may even increasing, thanks to a new, post-pandemic consumer mindset that will eschew fast fashion for garments of value that will last a lifetime. And a custom pair of raw jeans handcrafted by a denim aficionado like Franquesa fits the bill.

“The pandemic might be an accelerator of consumers’ habits and concerns,” Franquesa told Rivet. “And we like to believe it will translate to a ‘buy less buy better’ concept.”

Aside from having to reorganize his small Sabadell workshop to align with social distancing and sanitary requirements, Franquesa noted it’s been business as usual for the brand, which launched in 2013. At that time, Companion was a one-man brand, and the custom denim program hadn’t even launched. It wasn’t until he started receiving custom requests from clients that Franquesa expanded his offerings to include the service.

Now, shoppers can visit the Companion website and easily flow through the design process using an online configurator, which presents options for types of fit, denim, lining, thread color, details (like key hanger loops and front pocket reinforcement), hardware and patch types. Shoppers can control virtually every aspect of their handcrafted jeans.

It’s a concept that’s been used by independent designers for years, and more recently adopted by major brands such as Levi’s, which launched its first made-to-order jeans program in Asia last year, as well as Weekday, which debuted a custom jeans pilot program complete with body-scanning devices to ensure proper fit. Many large brands such as Zara have also offered customization popups to add personalized elements like patches and laser-printed designs to existing denim.

Judging by the uptick in offerings, personalized denim is enticing—even for those who don’t consider themselves to be denim heads.

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“From our point of view, custom denim has been steadily gaining in popularity,” Franquesa said. “The possibility of having an exclusively made pair of jeans under one’s requirements is a seductive idea for many.”

With more than 20 years of experience in the field—much of it spent as a designer for some of the biggest fast-fashion brands in Spain—Franquesa treats denim making like an art form. He insists on only using raw denim in his collection, reducing the use of water and chemicals in the production process. He also offers a lifetime repair service for all of his jeans, encouraging consumers to wear them until they break—and then continue to wear them some more.

Customers can choose from three core fits: the slimmer hug, a mid-low rise skinny; the Joel slim, a medium-rise straight leg; and the taper Jan, a mid-high-rise tapered leg. Though different features can skew the cost of a pair of custom jeans, one pair goes for around 243 euros ($289). Customers can also shop from existing styles on the Companion site, with men’s jeans starting at 136 euros ($161).

While much is uncertain as a result of the pandemic, Franquesa believes the appeal of tailor-made denim will remain strong and outlive any fashion trend that presents itself in the years to come.

“A custom pair of jeans is more than [just a garment]. It is the opportunity to wear a unique item that is designed under one’s perspective,” said Franquesa. “It will look good from the beginning and it will evolve even better. It is a purchase with a strong emotional component.”