The story of Blue Delta Jean Co. is not unlike the American Dream: two childhood friends from Mississippi, both without a lick of denim experience, discover the opportunity to purchase a long-forsaken garment operation in Tennessee and decide to make jeans. However, Blue Delta founders Nick Weaver and Josh West took their story further by scaling their “made in U.S.A” denim label into a premium bespoke service available across the U.S. and beyond.
“In the beginning people purchased from us because it was two country boys making denim—[it] was a good story, but now the product speaks for itself,” Weaver said.
The company launched in 2009 after West persuaded Weaver to join his plan to create custom raw denim based on a thread theory. Thread theory makes up the three distinct stitch patterns on a jean. Blue Delta’s bespoke process allows the customers to have input on the thread theory to achieve a unique look for each pair of jeans they have made. “I didn’t know about raw denim and I’m not sure how much Josh knew about it, but there was a great foundation,” Weaver said.
West, a former economic developer whose job was to recruit companies to work in Mississippi, and Weaver, a former software and business developer, moved the old sewing machines from Memphis, Tenn. to a factory in Tupelo, Miss., where they tapped into the dense network of unemployed seamstresses after the garment industry left the region.
Today, Blue Delta employs around 18 employees, including former Levi Strauss seamstresses and a third-generation pattern maker that hand drafts patterns for each client. “Our ignorance was a blessing in the beginning because if we knew how hard it would be, we might have not tried to make jeans,” Weaver said.
West and Weaver’s efforts to simplify the bespoke denim process haven’t gone unnoticed. Customers can send in their favorite jeans for Blue Delta to “clone” or have a pair made from scratch. Through Blue Delta’s website, customers can request a fitting with one of the company’s partners located across the country. Each fitting session allows the customer to be a part of the actual design process. Following a 16-point measurement session with one of its partners, the customer can select their denim, cut, thread theory and hardware placement for their jean. Jeans are ready in approximately six weeks.
By August, West says the brand will have partners in 110 cities across the U.S., as well as in the UK and Canada. An online “closet” for patterns will launch later this year, making it easier than ever for customers who have already been measured to place their order.
North Carolina-based Cone Mills, as well as Denim North America from Georgia are go-to mill partners for Blue Delta, which rounds-outs its denim offerings with some twill and duck canvas. The company also makes a 10-oz. pant from Holland & Sherry, makers of the green jacket from the Augusta National Golf Course. “We make everything here in America, but we don’t discriminate on fabrics,” West said, adding, “We buy some from Candiani and Japan. We try to find the best.”
The best fabric and the best fit isn’t cheap. Jeans retail for $500-$1,000. “To figure out how to make the jeans was one hurdle, but how to reach the masses has been another,” West said. Weaver added, “We never struggled to get people to buy the product. Getting the geography in place has been our struggle.”
The brand has found its audience through trunk shows, high-end retail partners and through old-fashioned word-of-mouth. Blue Delta resonates with professional athletes who struggle with fit. The brand services 29 out of the 30 Major League Baseball teams in the U.S. “We started with one player and now we have over 20 percent [of the league] wearing the jeans. They can’t be marketed to. We don’t give them jeans,” West said.
The denim community is close-knit and Blue Delta has certainty found its niche of denim heads that seek out the finest materials and craftsmanship. However, Weaver and West believe they can introduce new people to denim through Blue Delta. “A lot of customers are athletes and artists and regular Wall Street guys who can’t fit into something,” West said, adding, “We have been able to bridge that gap.”