Denim is getting its due at Denim City Headquarters in Amsterdam with its own archive chronicling denim from 1940 to 2040. The Indigo Archive, part of House of Denim’s initiative to foster forward-thinking denim design and innovation on a local and global scale, is a first of its kind accessible to everyone. It will house 501—a nod to the Levi’s legendary design—denim garments contributed by brands, industry leaders and iconic denim tastemakers.
The archive will be run by the House of Denim Foundation and overseen by a council of honorary custodians including Jason Denham. Archival garments will be stored, along with their attached “Story Sheet” and kept separately in closed containers, with the most valuable pieces under lock and key in Denim City’s vault.
The archive inducted its first three artifacts on Oct. 30 at “Denim on Stage: University Meets Industry at Denim City in Amsterdam.” Rivet caught up with Lizzie Kroeze, the archivist at Denim City’s Indigo Archive, to find out the criteria of an archive-worthy piece and how the denim community can participate.
Rivet: Describe the Indigo Archive’s first donations.
Kroeze: We officially received our first three pieces on Oct. 30, during the archive official launch. Mr. Hisao Manabe, CEO of Japan Blue, gave us a beautiful pair of handspun, handwoven, natural indigo Momotaro jeans which are absolutely incredible. The fabric is incredible; there is irregularity in the thread, in the weave and in the color because it is all hand-done, which gives the garment amazing character.
By contrast, Adriano Goldschmied, the so-called ‘Godfather of Denim,’ gave us a pair of knit-denim flare jeans with no waistband, no pockets, no fly, and 360 degree stretch. It’s a completely different interpretation of denim, but as Goldschmied says; it is the future.
Simon Giuliani, marketing manager at Italian denim mill Candiani, provided us with a pair of Alberto Candiani’s own jeans, which he wore during his days as a DJ. They are a Candiani original, organic selvedge cotton, with a bright blue wash and mild cracking, paint splatter and some distress.
Shortly after the official launch, Jason Denham of Denham the Jeanmaker also came in and handed me his contribution which is too beautiful not to mention; one of five Denham the Jeanmaker recut jackets made out of antique Japanese boro fabric and modeled after a fencing jacket. The fabric is full of hand-repairs, hand-dyed katazome patterns and sashiko stitches, but the design makes it really modern.
Rivet: What’s criteria must a garment meet to make it into the Indigo Archive?
Kroeze: This Indigo Archive will hold a multi-brand collection of 501 denim garments contributed by industry leaders, brands and iconic denim wearers whom we ask for one garment in permanent loan. The focus of the archive is the period between 1945 and 2045 and thus spans the whole industrialization of denim with an explicit eye towards the future. Pieces may be of interest because of their design, fabric, construction, wear, finish, fit, era, or simply because of a story behind them, as long us the contributor can tell us why they wanted to share their piece with the archive and its visitors.
Rivet: How does the Indigo Archive complement the rest of House of Denim’s work?
Kroeze: Our motto is ‘Towards a Brighter Blue’ as we aim to make the denim world drier, cleaner and smarter; meaning less water, less toxic waste, more recycling, and more alternative methods of producing and washing denim garments. One of the key challenges we want to address in the coming years is the repositioning of the jean. Currently taken for granted as a throwaway garment for sale around $20, we strive to educate and inspire consumers about the quality, craftsmanship, resources and passion that go into the ‘alchemy’ of making a denim garment.
Our first step back in 2012 was to found the Jean School; a full-time, three-year practical college course, realized in collaboration with ROCvA Amsterdam. Our curriculum was developed with denim experts to ensure optimal fit with industry reality and spans the entire scope from crop to shop, all with an eye on sustainability. Now our next challenge is to reach more people, both professionals and consumers, by sharing our love and knowledge of the quality, craftsmanship, resources and passion that go into making a denim garment.
Opening Denim City HQ is a major stride in the right direction and we are proud to list some of the industry’s biggest names as co-founders such as Levi’s, Candiani Denim and G-Star Raw to name just a few. Denim City HQ now houses a denim workshop, a sustainable laundry, networking- and education facilities and a denim institute where we are assembling the Indigo Archive.
The aim of the archive is to connect and inspire people in their passion for denim, to show the range of what denim has been, can be, and what it means to people. We want to make it accessible to everyone for inspiration, study and reference both in the physical form and soon also online.
Rivet: Are there other denim archives?
Kroeze: This is not the first denim archive, but it is the first that is accessible to everyone. Big brands like Levi’s, Ralph Lauren, G-star Raw, but also smaller brands such as Nigel Cabourn and Denham the Jeanmaker, have their own archives filled with vintage garments used for reference and inspiration by their designers. Unfortunately, they tend to keep their inspiration a closely guarded secret, so we can only guess at what is in there.
Rivet: Who can visit the Indigo Archive?
Kroeze: The House of Denim aims to connect and inspire all the players in the denim industry from designers, developers, weavers and launderers, to retailers and consumers. The Indigo Archive plays an important role in that, and is thus open to everyone, although you will have to make an appointment with me if you would like to drop by.
Rivet: How can people donate?
Kroeze: If you would like to give us one of your beloved denim pieces into permanent loan, please send me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org with a little bit of information about the piece and a photo. Then, I will be able to send you our official invitation letter and the ‘Story Sheet’ on which you can fill in—preferably by hand—a bit of information about the piece and why you wanted to share this, which will be filed with your archive piece for reference.