For the finest denim in all the land, New Yorkers have been heading to 3×1 in Soho to stock up on custom threads and bespoke pairs since 2011. What makes this jeans purveyor the crème de la crème? Founder Scott Morrison walks us through the empire he’s built on the blues.
BY DENA SILVER
You’ve got quite the denim history. Care to give us the lowdown?
I started the label Paper Denim & Cloth in 1999 and Earnest Sewn back in 2004. Back then, it was a totally different world; there was a glass ceiling that was capped at $100 for jeans. All of the best brands in the denim world were offshoots of well-known brands, like Diesel and Replay. When we launched Paper Denim, we were one of the first brands to break that $100 price target and we were the third brand in an premium denim space.
How tight-knit is the community of denim designers?
I’m friends with quite a few denim designers, but I think there are only a dozen people in the denim industry today that have had successful brands, including Adriano Goldschmied, Jerome Dahan from Citizens of Humanity, and I’d like to say myself! I think there are a lot of passionate people that believe in denim as a category, but it’s not an easy business. At one point in time, there were 700 or 800 denim brands in existance in the premium denim market. I’d say there are less than forty today.
So what were you aiming to accomplish with the creation of 3×1?
The idea behind 3×1 was about opening a really unique concept shop; it really wasn’t about trying to sell a million jeans to a million people. In doing that, we wanted to showcase the factory component, including how jeans were made. Our goal was to invite the customer into the process of being a designer.
How do you do that?
We have this giant denim wall on the left-hand side of the store, which has 80 different rolls of selvedge denim. We have the largest denim collection in the world, under one roof! There’s also a giant factory where we have 22 employees. They’re busy sewing and cutting jeans behind a glass wall.
Will you translate the store concept to the trade show floor?
We’re really trying to take the store concept and bring it into Coterie, as it’s the best way to learn what the brand is all about. And seeing as the most identifiable thing about 3×1 is the denim wall, so we’re basically going to bring up thirty-six rolls of denim to recreate that wall in the booth. We’re also going to have a couple of sewers on hand and we’re sewing up some gifts for our customers.
Are all 3×1 jeans made in New York?
Almost everything is made in the factory in New York, at least up until seven or eight months ago. That’s when we started expanding our wholesale business, and when we started producing the wash products, including all of the external washes, in LA.
Walk us through the 3×1 denim lineup, please!
3×1 offers a ready-to-wear collection, a custom made collection, and bespoke jeans. The bespoke jeans take the longest to make, because we create a pattern specific to your body from scratch. The whole process involves a few fittings, and usually takes several several weeks. Custom-made jeans take two or three weeks on average. We offer a bunch of different fits and you can personalize every detail. We have over 470 denim fabrics! Then, you can choose the thread colors, back pockets, belt loops, and waistband construction.
How do you cobble together a new collection each season?
It’s kind of a combination of what works best from last season, the things we believe in as a brand, and the staples to our DNA. Then, it’s about adding newness, either as a slow evolution, like the cigarette leg, or the highrise cigarette style.
What silhouette do you think will take over the skinny jean obsession?
We’re already starting to see a bit of a subtle transition. I don’t think it’s anything massive, but we’re selling a lot of our high-rise straight leg style these days.
Are most of your customers big denim buffs?
When we first opened up, I thought our store would be filled with a bunch of denim nerds who would come in and geek out over the possibilities. But then some fashion magazines talked about our bespoke jeans and we started attracting a lot of customers who had hard-to-fit sizes. One of our first bespoke customers was a women who was six foot four and had really amazing legs.
Was it Karlie Kloss?
No, but we actually have made her a pair of jeans! We’ve also made some jeans for LeBron James and a lot of the NY Knicks.
What’s your personal denim preference?
The jeans I wear all the time now are the M3, which is a men’s slim tapered jean. My favorite fabric is from Japan called the XX60. But for the most part, I’m always trying new denims in different fits, as I’m always trying to figure out what may be interesting for us for next seaon. There are constantly seven or eight pairs of denim in my rotation.
Is there a denim style that you won’t wear?
I’m not a big drop-crotch guy!
Growing up, did you have any impactful pairs of blues?
It was a really big game changer in college when I bought my first pair of Replay jeans, made of Japanese denim. I remember looking inside the pockets and I kept asking myself, “Why is this denim so good?” That really allowed me to step away from what most people were doing at the time and focus on textiles.