We interviewed Nick Williams about Denim Branded and the denim industry
We interviewed the real denim geek: Nick Williams. He is like a human denim encyclopedia. Do you know his book written with his wife Jenny Corpuz “Denim Branded“? If you do not know it we can tell you that it is an archive that traces the history of denim details of the most famous brands of all time.
We decided to interview him to understand his vision of the denim world.
HOW DID YOU COME OUT WITH THIS IDEA OF WRITING THIS BOOK?
During my time working in the industry, I had always hoped to find a book that was dedicated to graphics and branding for apparel.
When I started working at Levi’s in 1999 and I wished I had a book that broke down the elements that go into branding a pair of jeans. But I had to pick up this information along the way working with the brand.
A lot of branding reference that exists purely concentrates on vintage branding which I love! For the book, I wanted to include modern branding that took inspiration from the past as well as showing the vintage branding of the past.
I was invited to speak at the Kingpins show in 2016 and after doing more research for some articles on branding for WGSN I discovered that there was a big story to tell. I got a book deal with Schiffer publishing and my wife Jenny and I started working on the project, I didn’t want to produce a book that just contained just inspirational branding images from heritage and modern denim brands but I wanted to tell a little bit about the background meaning, and personality behind the branding.
WHAT IS THE STORYTELLING OF THIS BOOK?
One of the main tasks and toughest tasks was trying to get all of the brands onboard for the project. I had a clear vision of wanting the ‘Big 3’ (Levi’s, Wrangler and Lee) as well as the list of other heritage and modern denim brands. Jenny, and I said from the very start that we would only feature brands that had given their consent to being in the book as we wanted all of the information to be fact-checked by the companies to ensure accuracy from the source as well have permission to either take our own photographs from company archives or have officially authorized photographs featured in the book.
We set off on our research trip which first took us to Greensboro, NC to visit the Wrangler and Cone archives. That trip also connected me with Evan Morrison and photographer, Joey Sedwell. We then traveled to Kansas City to photograph the Lee archives and to do more research at the onsite museum. I worked with the historian Jean Svadlenak and in-house photographer Bobbie Hamzioui.
I had visited Levi’s archive many times when I was working in the graphics department. They have a thorough and comprehensive photographic archive for which were given permission to use. We worked with historian Tracey Panek and her team via email on the images, text and fact-checking.
We did a lot of book and online research, extracting key points that we thought pertinent and interesting. Again, always getting this fact-checked by the featured brands. Jenny wrote all of the text in the book. She knows how I feel about denim branding, my stories and researched heavily into the book with me. She was able to transform all that information into a small amount of text that expressed the heritage or reasoning behind an element that we found interesting and informative. The book was always going to be photographic heavy but, as previously mentioned there are some fascinating facts and interesting stories that we wanted to add.
We ended up with over 3000 images which I edited down in order to fit the 272 pages.
We wanted to show the detail of each piece featured so we ended up with just under 500 images. I was so tough and there were a few images that I had to drop but really liked so maybe, if we are lucky enough to get a second book out or a second edition we can feature these. All in all, I would say from point of the proposal to final submission to the publisher it took us just under 2 years.
HOW THE CONTEMPORARY DENIM DIFFERENTIATE FROM THE DENIM OF THE PAST?
In my opinion, you can’t know where you are going if you don’t know where you have been. There is much to be achieved by delving into the rich past that denim has to offer. You don’t have to reproduce a heritage looking aesthetic but in order to develop a piece of denim or branding armed with a knowledge of what has existed previously and is still appealing to many will in my opinion, result in a well thought out and considered design that should match to your brand. All of the modern brands featured in the book have executed this perfectly and in their own individual style.
HOW DO YOU SEE THE DENIM INDUSTRY TODAY?
I see the denim industry is in a very interesting place, the biggest growth area for heritage and raw denim right now is in the far east in Indonesia, Thailand, and the Philippines, there is a large fan base for the history and new brands are popping up.
WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT THE FUTURE OF THE DENIM INDUSTRY?
As far as production on a mass scale, sustainability is the number one issue and I have hopes the future will be much a cleaner environment for the industry.
HOW CAN THE NEW GENERATIONS BE BROUGHT CLOSER TO THE WORLD OF DENIM?
Last month I attended two Denim Hangs events one at Clobbercalm in Sheffield and the other in New York. People traveled from all over to hang out together for the love of the same fabric and style. This was instigated on social media which I find really inspiring and encouraging for the denim community. In a time where social media and the internet aren’t always receiving the most positive reviews for their effect on the high street, here is a platform whereby the denim community cannot only connect online but in person.
OK, YOU ARE A DESIGNER WHO HAS WORKED WITH A LOT OF INTERNATIONAL BRANDS, HOW WILL A PAIR OF JEANS BE LIKE IN 2050?
Not much different from today, but I hope made in a way that is safer for the environment and the future of the planet.
Cover Image: denimbranded.com