Earlier this summer, I had the privilege of getting a tour of Lucky Brand’s denim factories by Nico Peyrache, their Head of Denim Design, whom I prefer to refer to as the denim expert. Lucky Brand prides themselves with quality products and attention to detail. Just how much detail is exactly what I had the opportunity to see first-hand. The creation of denim is a seriously complicated business, and here is a just a little of what I learned that day.
The process begins at their factory, the Jean Mart, where the jeans are cut, sewn, and accessorized, all done by separate sets of hands in a 15+ step process. Each part of the jeans (the hem, waistband, thighs, pockets, buttons, etc.) is handled separately and sewn together like a puzzle.
Next stop is at their wash house, “the laundry,” where they do their magic and bring an entire array of life to each pair of jeans. This part was by far my favorite part of the whole process. It’s here that the jeans receive their coloring, fading, whiskering, patterns, distressing, and destroyed holes, giving each pair of jeans character and soul. This all happens at a place called Blue River in downtown Los Angeles.
The jeans start out as raw denim before they are starched and placed on a mannequin-like contraption to create tension for the whiskering, which is all done by hand with sandpaper.
They are then strategically sprayed with potassium to create the fading. Potassium starts out as a yellowish/brown color before they are washed in the laundry to neutralize the potassium, giving them that faded finished. The distress you see along the hems and pockets are created using pumice stones that are washed with the jeans. It also creates softness and flexibility in the material and removes certain color and contrast to the wash.
The creation of patterns you see on your Lucky Denim was a particularly fascinating process to me. I’ve always assumed the prints you see, such as snakeskin or leopard prints, were pre-printed on the denim. I learned, however, that these prints are inscribed through a laser machine. There is a pattern encoded in the laser machine, allowing each pair to imitate likeness.
And for those of you who wonder why you pay as much as you do for the holes on your jeans, that is also all done here by hand. No two pair is exactly the same, allowing each pair to be truly one of a kind.
I was overwhelmed by the amount of work and elaborate detail that went into making each individual pair of jeans. It was a much more systematic and labor intensive process than I ever imagined. But after learning what I did through my tour, I’ve gained a new found appreciation for each pair of Lucky Jeans that I own, knowing that every single pair is cared for and created with a profound amount of detail. Each pair of jeans is placed in the hands of at least 20 different individuals before you see them in stores. Retail is in the detail, and Lucky Brand has taken the meaning of “attention to detail” to a whole new level for me. So if you ever wonder why jeans cost as much as they do, know that each pair you own has been created individually with much TLC.
I had such a fun-filled day learning about Lucky Brand’s set up. Their headquarters was also very impressive. The atmosphere really matches their motto, “live, work, and play,” which is precisely how it felt being there. I happened to visit them on “bring your dog to work day” where I saw dogs roaming around just to give you an idea of what a warm and friendly environment it is. I even had the amazing opportunity of getting a personal fitting with Nico and their Head of Technical Services, Colette Bailey, which was also such an eye opening experience. I had so much fun getting their expert opinions and input, as they taught me so much in regards to the proper fit of denim. And their shared passion for denim was extremely infectious. As a serious denim consumer, it’s nice for me to see how much heart and soul is put into creating the end product. I’m excited to share with you the jeans they picked for me, and to personally show you some of their styles that I fell in love with during my visit. I particularly fancied their Sienna Cigarette Jean (see review here) which is a more casual, relaxed jean, as well as their Charlie Skinny Jean, which is a sleek, body-hugging jean that can be easily worn from day to evening. They truly carry styles for every body type and personality. Stay tuned for more reviews on some of the fabulous jeans they chose for me.
I’d like to personally thank Nico, Colette, Melissa, and the rest of the Lucky Brand team for such a fun and amazing day!