S and S forum members and guests, we are very pleased to announce we have landed an interview with the one and only Mats Andersson of Indigofera! We are in the final stages just touching some things up and should be posting very soon.
Special thanks to highlights for all of his hard work in making this interview happen.
Mats took the time to give our community an interview that is a cracker. He's a prime number of global workwear...I'm very grateful to Mats...and to Winterland, Ickes & Old26 who are geniuses & keep our ball rolling.
SS: We love the Jack Kerouac quote on your webpage:
“There was nowhere to go but everywhere, so just keep on rolling under the stars”
Indigofera continues to evolve its impressive and expanding range of apparel, accessories and blankets. How did you enter the workwear industry and what was the genesis of the brand?
MA: The quote is something that has travelled with my person and I really connect to this. It describes the journey for my person and for what I am doing; you're never done so just keep going/rolling. And that is all good, as the stars will be there for you on the journey wherever you go. You will discover new things even if you at first did not think so.
I started collecting denim and workwear in the mid 80`s, just to find good stuff for myself. If it was Levi`s, Lee or Wrangler it did not matter much, but you could find nice stuff dated from the 60´s for a cheap price. At the time, I was paying attention to details and started already then to learn how to date these garments. I had friends doing the same thing. We taught each other what to look for in the details and got the knowledge slowly but surely. No getting on line at that time and almost no books to be found.
That lead me in to working in a few different denim stores and moving on to Levi`s where I stayed for 8 years. I had the pleasure to work close to the people who were developing LVC and Levi`s Red during the late 90`s in the European head office. I stayed until the end of 2004 and got to see some of the best things that came out in that era.
I started my company 2005 and we started the development of Indigofera summer 2007.
Besides Indigofera we have a store, Pancho & Lefty www.panchoandlefty.se and do distribution of a couple of brands.
To start and make your own thing was a dream for me for years, and one day you look yourself in the mirror and say it's time. At the time, denim was going away and stretch fabrics and faster fashion were on the rise. Quality went out of style…
So, at that moment, I thought it was the right time to focus on making quality garments and jeans. Of course, there was LVC, Edwin and a couple of other brands making things in EU. Japanese brands were in Japan. And, in general, there was no wave as we see today - of good brands making their way and people, like us, across the globe that are interested, and can connect because of the internet. It's great.
We wanted to focus on the fabric and the quality of that, whether it would be denim twill, flannels or blankets. The fabric is where we start. That also means we hunt down the right threads of cotton. Like the 100% pima cotton (Supima) we use in most of our jersey. And to make this in fits/garments that, in our minds, would last both in terms of quality and aesthetics. The Prima in our name is always with us when we're making stuff, it is a control function of the brand. We can’t let goods into the market that are not Prima.
One way of turning things around, regarding how you think about the quality in a new perspective, was seeing many great products, from various brands, that were spearheading the brand that season. We asked ourselves, if that is the best they can do (and I believe many brands can produce good products), what is the opposite of the best they do? What is their entry product, and what is the marginal product/s they carry? We found out there is a wide span between what brands can do that is great, and what they don’t mind doing in the lower price/quality bracket. And I might add, not all cheap products are bad. As long as it is considered and made for a purpose it can, for sure, have some kind of quality. We have respect for the price people pay for our garments. Calling things cheap or expensive is not always easy to determine. Paying 250 Euros for a pair of jeans might be money well spent. Same as it might be a waste and expensive to pay 50 Euros for something that breaks after a short while, and is not even worth mending.
For us as a brand it means a lot to discuss quality and how you relate to that. We spend a lot of time to discuss what is good quality. All brands claim they are good quality if you ask them, but can they explain what that is? I know some can but many have no clue, they just follow the stream. In a way, you have to be exposed to good quality to understand what less good quality is. And then it is the whole process and all the details that decide how good it's going to be in the end. The purpose of a garment is also a key factor in this. Otherwise it can become a gimmick or just plain fashion. We don’t mind people measuring us for our top products, whatever they are. But also measure us for what might be the “worst” product we put out there. Then you can truly see where a brand starts and where it ends and the quality that is in it.
SS: Your rendering of the classic western shirt - the indigofera Fargo shirt - has a lowered yoke which is horizontal and the pocket flaps are curved. Very clean. The cut tapers from shoulder to hip but the waist hem is vented at the sides; it is designed to be worn untucked. The hardware is superb. Copper rivets reinforce the vents and the sleeve openings. The brass snaps are awesome; ultra heavy, indestructible and beautiful. The cuts & designs within the range evoke the seminal qualities of workwear but, at the same time, would you agree the styles are reimagined for the 21st century?
MA: In regards to your comments on Fargo you are right in every aspect. It's great that you notice the work we put in to our garments and it's gratifying to hear your comments.
When we started out we could have chosen a path of making reproductions and stayed closer to the design of classics. But we wanted to contribute to the history of denim and not only level with it. Besides, there are such great brands that make amazing reproductions of historical clothes, denim and workwear. So, no need for another we thought.
So, yes, we do want to make clothes for the 21st century, with the thoughtfulness of when production was at its best in history - for fabrics, trims and for production.
Some clothes we make are very close to originals though, but we prefer not to claim these are reproductions. We are so inspired by the history of denim and clothing and we dig in to this, but things can still be improved and changed to get to a new place. And the Fargo is a good example of that.
We design many of our fabrics. This is one of the things we love to do and why we started Indigofera to begin with. We do this in close cooperation with the mills we work with. As we think the fabric is the hero, and we do not always find what we are looking for, it is a satisfying thing to do. If it is flannels, twills, jersey we have ideas we dream up, and bring to life.
As an example, the Norris shirt is a somewhat classic buffalo check we developed in 2008. But the construction was different from what normally is seen in the market, and I still have not found. We did a 3by1 narrow loom construction, and some other stuff in there also, but one has to keep some secrets. It made it heavy and dense and long lasting. Still have not seen one worn out after 8-9 years in the market. So you can approach classic stuff and challenge that but still make a design that continues the legacy.
Nihon Menpu loves when we challenge them to make things together. As a mill, they supply us and have been doing so ever since we started. At the start up early 2008 we visited them and began development of the first specially made Indigofera weaves. It was our No9 fabric, the Norris flannel, that was first to see the light of day. There's been a variety - depending on where we go & how open mills and people are to make special weaves. But the bigger challenge is actually the minimum meters you have to do. That’s why brands don’t do much development themselves. In the beginning, we did close to 100% of the fabrics we used for Indigofera. I think today that is maybe around 50%. This is for various reasons... some fabrics we want already exist and it might be pointless to make a small change; better to make effort in production or with the garment. Some fabrics we find we could not imagine ourselves. And there is the challenge to finance having fabrics on stock.
SS: The engineering/construction of the indigofera garments demonstrate that the sewing team & maintenance crews in Portugal are first-rate. Do you subscribe to the superiority of the old Union machines?
MA: The production/making of the garment is, of course, key to the wearer. Brands have different ways of how to go about making garments. As the manufacturing of denim in general has strived to make production cheaper and cheaper this is what you get if you do not have your own opinion or idea of how to make things. The challenge is to find a factory that is willing to go the extra mile for you.The 5 pocket jeans we make are made in one line in the factory, but they have to change the configuration of that every time they make our production. That means stopping production, changing all sewing machines, making our stuff and then changing back to “normal” production settings.
Products like our denim jackets, pants, vests.(Fargo, Grant, Floyd, Swearengen, Heyes) are studio made by 3-4 persons. They are put together piece by piece using both single, double and triple needle. The sewing that comes out, as you so kindly pointed out, is very good. Sorry don’t have any detailed information about the machines.
SS: Gunpowder dye is, again, typically innovative. A possibly humorous and/or historic reference which, however, is highly functional - it fades wonderfully. What brought you to this discovery/concept?
MA: The gunpowder dye is also a bit of a secret to us. The Japanese mill use "gunpowder" constituents (salpleter, sulfur and charcoal) in the dying of the yarn. When the fabric is singed the burned fibers gives the fabric a smell of gunpowder. This gives the fabric an even more interesting story, and you can tell from the smell that it is gunpowder in there, but mainly it is a good black fabric! It is a yarn dye with both warp and weft in black, but with slightly different shades. The idea was to have a black fabric that would wear in as a pair of denim. And that they do.
SS: The poncho, vests, jackets and leather & suede shirts are all remarkable...but your blankets are so special. The kain ikats of Indonesia, the noren of Japan, the rich textiles of the American tribes - all of these spring to mind. What inspired the development of these beautiful blankets? Can you tell us about them?
MA: The blankets are very dear to us. I grew up with quality blankets and most of my friends did too. Because of the climate for sure but also as a nice item in your home. I see this across the globe that a woollen blanket evokes emotions.
I found the wool mill we are working with when I had a girl friend and visited her in a remote part of Norway. It all fell in to place that we should make blankets within Indigofera.
It was during the startup that we found the mill and actually the first manifestation of our brand was in the blanket, the first sample/product we held in our hands. Today we call them generation blankets; they will be handed down to the next generation. That is the level of quality in these blankets.
Even though the mill has done blankets for nearly 100 years we put them to the test. Some of the designs we make they initially refused to make. They could not control the process they said & for us that was great as the product came out even more unique with some irregularities.
My interests in art and music have now led us in to several collaborations and some yet to come. Next year we are together with Israel Nash making one blanket and a hand full of products that are inspired by his music and by the connection to late 60`s and early 70`s style of Flying Burrito Brothers and Gram Parson.
(We still have not told the press; only buyers know so far, so some kind of exclusive for your readers)
2013 we made 3 blankets with Wes Lang, and that in itself put us on the journey we are on now, collaborating with people we are inspired by and whom we inspire, whether it be art, music or poetry.
You are mentioning inspiration you see in our blankets, and we are inspired from different parts of the world and we are really happy that you see and notice this. It has not really been a conscious thing, it just kind of happened. Some of the symbols and patterns are global I guess and have been used across the world.
SS: Will you produce an olive Fargo shirt - the Cripple Creek green shirt is so outstanding. Your hickory fabrics are arguably the best on the market. Are there plans for indigofera to produce wabash fabric/s?
MA: Fargo and Copeland will continue to develop. We will have new colors and fabrics as we move from year to year. As we recently had a “green” version of the Fargo we are not having this for the next 2 seasons. But would not mind making a green again - olive, why not.
Still have not done any Wabash, no particular reason. Just so many other ideas I guess.
SS: We understand that all denim design & development is done inhouse. The loom state Japanese 'Clint' Shrink-to-Prima-Fit denim sounds particularly amazing. Can you please tell us a little more about their development and, if possible, the entire indigofera range of jeans?
MA: We have a range right now that contains 2 pants: Heyes, that is slightly tapered and Swearengen, that is straight. They are both inspired by the late 1800'S. Swearengen came from an actual person that was popularized by the HBO tv series “DEADWOOD”. He was a bar keeper back in the wild west and his style inspired the hickory stripe development to some degree and the pant 100%. Many of our product names have a special meaning to us.
- Nash is our newest and slimmest fit so far and is inspired by Israel Nash and was developed together with him; it will hit the market spring 17.
- Ray is the straight slim. (Skinny guys that want a regular straight look).
- Buck is the high-rise slightly tapered fit.
- Clint is the regular straight.
- Wyatt, boot cut jean. Normal waist.
- Kirk, loose fit with the cinch back. 1920-30`s style
We work with anti-fit in our denim, that is the look we want.
The No.2 is a loom-state 16 oz, and it gets close to 18 after a wash and shrink. It`s our heaviest denim so far. “Shrink to Prima Fit” as we like to say.
Basically we wanted to have a non sanforized denim in our offering. Partly to honor the past and history of shrink to fit denim. But maybe even more so, is because if you get it right, the fit gets perfect. It molds/shapes to your body and becomes truly yours. I understand it`s not for everybody but for those wanting to dig deep, these are a must.
Special thanks again to Mr. Mats Andersson for taking the time to answer our questions. Also, many thanks to highlights for all of his hard work in landing us another great interview.
Post by highlights on Oct 14, 2016 13:59:22 GMT -6
It was a great pleasure doing the interview with Mats. He is a gentleman and, as the interview shows, a man with poetry in his soul. Many, including me, see indigofera as one of workwear's truly top shelf brands and also the finest coming out of Europe. Mats' shop, Pancho&Lefty, is also one of the premier workwear retailers on the planet; it stocks the cream of US and Japanese labels - Mister Freedom, Kapital, Buzz Ricksons, TCB, Freewheelers, Wesco etc. - and I have had multiple personal experiences of their fine service. It is entirely up to Mats whether or not his interview is posted elsewhere.
indigofera I want to thank you again for taking the time to do the interview for our forum. We all greatly appreciate your time and input. If it is alright with you we would like to post the interview over at Reddit.
I would like to know if we will see better distribution of Indigofera in the US as well as bentin mentioned.
Pleasure is on my side to make this interview, i can assure you all of that. Thanks for the kind interest in what we are making.
Ill try answer questions now that i see in this thread.
In regards to be available in more stores in US, this is something we would like and are working on. We are in dialogue with some stores and we are slowly increasing the number of doors season by season. Widest selection of Indigofera in US you can find at standardandstrange.com in Oakland. They carry us on-line also.
We have soon been 8 years in the market and we ship 35 stores across the globe this season. That still makes us somewhat a secret to both buyers and consumers. I guess these things take time, and we have also never pushed the brand, we always worked with organic growth.
In some ways it is great as we have had same stores working with us for a long time and you hang out with these great people having their great stores in places we love to go to.