Hiut Denim Co. only makes one product: jeans. But they do it well.
For 40 years, Cardigan, Wales was home to the country’s biggest jeans factory, which made 35,000 pairs of jeans a week. But when the factory closed in 2002, the town lost a major part of its industry, and more importantly, the 400 jobs that came with it.
A decade later, David and Clare Hieatt sought to revive the town’s industry by launching the Hiut Denim Co. and employing some of the machinists who worked in the old factory. The company has been a made-to-order success story ever since, based on the principle of “doing one thing well,” which the Hieatt’s believe sets the Hiut Denim Co. apart. The company only makes one product: jeans.
The brand, however, came to prominence in 2018 after Meghan Markle wore their jeans at a public event, which led to a three-month waiting list sprouting overnight.
Admittedly, Hiut Denim Co. is not trying to conquer the world, but the brand thrives on taking on out-of-the-box ideas, like using Candiani Denim’s biodegradable stretch denim to create microplastic-free jeans.
What will the denim industry be like in the next 18 months?
David Hieatt:I would hope that people stop making things that people don’t want to buy. That surplus of companies burning clothes because they can’t sell things they make is the dumbest thing ever. For us, we only really make what we have orders for, so there’s no surplus. If you want to be really good for the environment, start by only making stuff that people want.
What changes would you like to see in the denim industry as a result of Covid-19?
DH:It’s a similar answer really. The ability of direct-to-consumer companies is they can compare their sales with what they can make and join those things up, and a lot of other companies can’t predict that with great certainty. They’re making things in the hope people will buy. That’s a waste of their energy, resources and distribution—it’s a complete incredible waste. If brands can stop doing that, that would be a significant change.
How do you define sustainability in a post-pandemic world?
DH: It’s hard to define, but you want to try and be the lowest impact you can possibly be. I also know that we’re part of the problem since we’re a maker. Jeans, denim in particular, and cotton take a lot of water to grow.
Also, if you think about the impact of a pair of jeans, 20 percent is by us making it, but 80 percent is by the customer washing and ironing it. Brands quite rightly have the 20 percent they can control, and it’s their job to be as low impact as you can, but the other side is how do you affect that 80 percent? That’s the biggest sweet spot of us.
For us, we do a “no wash club” when people don’t wash their jeans for three, six or nine months and we work out all the water and electricity that is saved. The greenest jean actually becomes the one you don’t wash, and that’s where it becomes interesting.
Describe your dream jeans.
DH: I think the ultimate holy grail is to have a biodegradable jean. To give credit where credit is due—Candiani in Italy, that’s their dream. I’m hoping that their dream comes true, because I would love to see that ‘cradle to cradle’ aspect come to life, in that they take to the land and give to the land.
A good starting point would be taking microplastics out of jeans. Everyone is aghast at the problem of plastic bottles. The advantage of plastic bottles is that you can see them, and then say ‘This is disgusting. This is terrible. We need to change it.’ The bigger problem is always the one you can’t see, and so taking microplastics out of denim is something we have to prioritize.
What is your most worn pair of jeans, and why?
DH: I’ve got some beautiful selvedge jeans, and there’s becomes a point in jeans’ life when they become yours, and I have quite a few of those jeans. But the one I used most regularly just because I’m fairly active around the farm is the Tech Jean that we make.
Grand masters don’t like making it because it’s not like a true jean in that it’s got some stretch in it so it’s not authentic in the classic way. If you’re active, it sure is comfortable. That’s the honest answer. When you’re doing active things, a bit of stretch goes a long way.
Name one word that best describes denim.