Many denim brands have taken birth in garages or living rooms and have grown from a small sapling to large trees. Agave denim from US is one such brand which started in 2002 with the passion of a single person operation in California producing only 8 jeans and has now grown into a brand which people are taking note of.. It is also a brand which does 100% manufacturing in US using mainly Japanese denim.
We speak to Jeff Shaffer – owner/designer – to find what makes Agave denim tick..
What prompted you to start a denim label and how did it grow and reach its present state?
I have always been in love with denim jeans. From my early days 501’s and Zeppelins to my Diesel’s and G-Stars. In 1993, I went to Japan to visit vintage clothing and denim shops. I met a lot of the vintage dealers and saw all of the super cool small companies building 501 reproductions. I wanted to make great jeans too. My first brand was called BC Ethic and we did some cool denim. In 2002, I founded Agave with the mission “Agave exists to design and produce the best tailored, most beautiful and highest quality denim jeans, authentically sewn and hand finished, exclusively in California.” I started out really small and I was my only employee for the first three years. Then, I slowly added staff and increased distribution. Agave has never been about being big but about being great. Always focused on product.
What makes your denim line different from every other denim line out there?
Quality. I use the best fabrics in the world. Mostly Japanese denim and Italian. I spend twice as much as most brands on fabrics. I focus on ring spun yarns, mostly long staple or ELS.
Are all your jeans produced in US?
What inspired you to become a denim designer?
Necessity. Couldn’t afford to hire a designer.
I understand Agave uses mainly Japanese and Italian denim fabrics. What tells you to select a particular fabric – is it market trends that you read or is it just your own inner instinct and liking which enables you to select new fabrics?
Inner Instinct. I am a fabric freak. We stock 75 fabrics. 75 SKUS IN MENS ALONE WHICH IS OVER 7 FITS per season and offer every variation of denim. 2×1, 3×1, RHT, LHT, Broken Twill, Selvage, Stretch, Rigid in weights from 7oz to 16oz.
Is it an art to select a new fabric?
Not an art. Passion and Intuition.
Do you think Asian fabrics are catching up with those from Italy or Japan?
Yes but then will never match because they lack the soul.
Why do you think the Asian fabrics lack soul?
Perhaps this is too strong of statement. There are two parts to the answer. One has to do with passionate artesian Japanese weavers and the other has to do with American workwear. Japan has an ancient history of indigo dyed fabric dating back centuries. At some point when denim became an important texile the japanese weavers started making denim as opposed to silk and other fabrics. They put their passion into the denim rather than treating like a commodity. The understood the unique idiosyncrasies of blending yarn sizes, different shades of indigo, all the different weaves like 2×1 3×1 1×1 broken twill and how all this related to American workwear. It is possible to export that passion from japan to china. I am sure there are native Chinese that are starting to understand this but it will take a while. Even so the cultures are very different. It is the Japanese that have created markets for highly evolved tastes like sushi and selvage.
What makes a successful designer for a denim brand? Someone who works on expected trends or someone who follows his own instincts without worrying about trends?
Understanding your customer. Talent.
What are you denim predictions for the next 12 months for both men and women?
RAW, RINSE, DARK & NATURAL, CLEAN, INTENTIONAL, BEAUTIFUL, IMPECCABLE TAILORING.
One of the greatest trends that we have seen recently in denim are Jeggings . What is your take on this trend? Will it last and become a generic trend that lasts for a long time or will it fade out soon ?
IT IS PRETTY MUCH OVER. WOMEN ALWAYS WANT SOMETHING DIFFERENT.
Dry and wet processing makes a critical difference to denim production. With water conservation becoming an important topic, do you think that waterless processing will gain in importance in next few years?
Yes. Sustainability will become more and more important as the environment deteriorates.
Agave Gold Purist Jeans is one of your great products in selvedge denim . Are all selvedge denims popular with your customers?
NO. SELVAGE IS FOR TRUE BLUE BLOODS. A LOT OF MY CUSTOMERS DO LOVE SELVAGE BUT MANY LOVE SOFT FABRICS.
What other international markets do you intend to expand to? Do you see China and India as important markets for the future?
We are starting to build our oversees distribution. CHINA, INDIA AND BRASIL ARE THE NEXT BIG MARKETS.