Florida may be better known for family vacations than an incubator for budding apparel businesses, but Daniel Skinner, it seems, prefers to fly under the radar. Working out of his home in Tallahassee, Fla. Skinner cuts and sews made-to-order jeans made with fabric sourced from some of the industry’s finest mills under the label Skinner Jeans.
For about $175 a pair, Skinner fits local denim heads for raw denim jeans. Starting with a standard size, he tweaks and cuts patterns to fit and keeps it on file for future orders. Standard sizes are also available for sale online.
It’s a hobby that turned into a full-time gig in October and is growing thanks in part to better educated consumers and a new retail partnership with Sturdy Brothers, an online store that specialize in American-made goods from the South.
With no formal training, Skinner picked up a vintage sewing machine about five years ago, thinking it might be a fun way to indulge his interest in men’s style and clothing. “The first thing I made was an overnight bag,” he recalls. “Then I thought, jeans can’t be that hard, which turned out to not be true at all.”
Skinner researched pattern drafting, ordered some denim and kept at it until he perfected his design. “And it has kind of snowballed since that first pair. I fell in love with the fabric and the process,” he said.
The brand currently offers two fits for men, a slim taper and slim straight, which is also available as shorts and chinos. A high-waist, stretch skinny jean made with Candiani fabric is available for women. Skinner says he plans to introduce five more fits in 2019.
The Skinner Jeans look is clean and free of overt branding. “I’m a big fan of form and function being the same thing. I try to allow the fabrics to speak for themselves because when you strip away the extra details you get a much closer relationship to the garment,” Skinner said. “And that’s the design aesthetic. Nothing is on the jeans for the sake of design, it’s all very purposeful and there for a reason. The construction is clean and simple as you can get.”
Skinner stepped away from the idea of using “Made in USA” selvedge fabrics after the closure of White Oak, though he still uses 13 oz. 100 percent cotton denim from Cone. He’s also using 12 oz. vintage deadstock selvedge from Kaihara in Japan and 10 oz. wide loom stretch denim from Candiani from Italy. “I’ve found those three countries put out the best quality,” he said.
Being isolated from garment hubs like Los Angeles and New York City presents some challenges. The idea of visiting a supplier’s showroom on a whim or popping into a shop for thread is out of the question. However, Skinner’s proximity to the Florida-Georgia borderline—where manufacturing flourished up until the 1940s, gives him a sense of history that is advantageous to a denim designer.
The factories and skilled workforce are gone, but Skinner said the area’s population of educated consumers is growing. “My customer base might not know all about raw denim or custom denim, but [it’s one that] knows that there is a better option than the $15 jeans in the store,” he said. “That’s where my brand fits in.”