Understanding Our Denim

If you've landed here, you probably want to know more about the denims that our jeans are created from.

Here you'll find an explanation of the difference between selvedge and non-selvedge denim. We also help you understand the design process; why we have chosen certain denims, and attributed them to particular styles. We also highlight the mills that we work with - though looking to expand on this information - for true traceability of our supply chain.

Let's begin.

What is selvedge denim?

Selvedge denim is woven on shuttle looms, which were popular until the projectile loom was invented in the 1950s. Shuttle looms weave denim the "old fashioned" way.

This means a few things:

  • These looms can only weave about .8 or .9 metres width of denim at a time (in contrast to standard 1.5 metres).
  • They require someone looking after them while they weave, but also allow for the operator to add personality to the denim by adjusting the machine
  • The edge of the denim is finished in white (due to the weft threads used) as the shuttle goes back and forth, making a "self edge" which also known as "selvedge" or "selvage" for you Americans.

    Though it's not a hard and fast rule, people generally feel that selvedge denim is the best type of denim. This is because it's woven the "traditional" way. We choose our denims based on quality, fibre and appearance - whether it's selvedge or not.

    What selvedge denims do we use?

    We use various selvedge denims in our production. In general, we work with mills in Japan, Italy and Turkey, seeking the perfect blend of quality, price and carbon footprint. Of course we want to make our jeans accessible through our pricing structure, though have to also ensure the "true cost" of our materials is taken in to account.

    This isn't common within garment production, or indeed clothing purchases.

    To consider the carbon footprint of fabric, but we do consider this, as it's just as important to acknowledge the hidden costs like transport, carbon emissions and people. We're working on showcasing that information, so that you have full knowledge of the differences and can make better informed decisions.

    Kurabo 18oz Indigo Selvedge Denim

    This 18oz denim from Kurabo Mills in Japan is the strongest denim we've ever worked with. The selvedge line is sunflower yellow on one side, black on the other. It has been greencast dyed, which means it has the slightest green tint as new, but then also in the whiskers and honeycombs you'll create. The weave is very tight, with a slightly raised twill, and the blue threads have many dips in indigo, resulting in the darkest indigo denim in our collection.

    This combined with a high starch content means this denim will have very pronounced fades with wear. Due to the stiffness, it will require a lot of wear to soften them up. Whether you're in a hot or cool climate, these jeans are great for rigorous work. You'll also get the signature Kurabo woven label on your inner waistband for total Japanese denim cool points.

    Jeans with this denim:
    NW1 Heritage Relaxed 18oz Indigo Selvedge Jean


    Kurabo 14oz Indigo Selvedge Denim

    The 14oz selvedge denim from Kurabo Mills is used on two styles, both with a unique coral orange selvedge. The fabric is quite starchy, making it very stiff at first, leading to beautiful fades if left unwashed. The denim is woven with dye variation in the blue warp (vertical) threads, resulting in a fabric that has lines running down the length of the fabric in different shades of indigo. This denim is a red cast, so it has a subtle red tinge in the light. Japanese denim tends to be woven with shorter staple cotton fibres, resulting in a "slubbier" grainier look, than in comparison to Turkish denim. It adds character and texture both in look and feel, that is quite clearly Japanese. Please note, that the image below shows a small production run of black selvedge indigo denim that is now no longer available.

    There's also a first batch of Kurabo 14oz denim that has a much more visible natural-coloured weft resulting in a lighter more grainy look. With a red selvedge line, and with our original Kurabo label sewn in to the waistband, this is an almost retro denim. Only available now in a few sizes in our NW1 and E8.

    If you'd like to see how this denim fades, check out our washing guide with photos of Han's and David's E8 jeans.

    Jeans with this denim:
    E8 Slim Tapered Indigo Selvedge Jean
    NW1 Heritage Relaxed 14oz Indigo Selvedge Jean


    ISKO 15.5oz Nearly-Japanese Indigo Selvedge Denim

    We call this one "nearly-Japanese" because it has the look of Japanese denim, without the higher carbon footprint and therefore, comes at a lower cost overall. We're very pleased to work with this denim, even if it is pretty much the only denim we work with to give off its blue dye after production. Like Japanese denims, this Turkish denim from Isko has been woven using shorter thicker staple cotton fibres, which means it has a slight slubby appearance, or "artisanal" look.

    In contrast to other Turkish denims that will appear smooth and consistent, this particular one is more saturated in indigo due to the Kanto Blue indigo dye, and has a grainier hand feel. Its dark nature really suits the E8 slim tapered style, which has a smart cool vibe. The selvedge is a wide dirty-white one, with visible indigo bleeding that to us shows the character of the production method.

    Jeans with this denim:
    E8 Slim Tapered Turkish 15.5oz Indigo Selvedge Jean

     In this photo you can see our Japanese 14oz denim (left) and Turkish 15.5oz denim (right) side by side.

     Kurabo 14oz "Blackhorse Black" Black Selvedge Denim

    This denim is essentially the same as the 14oz indigo denim that we use from Kurabo Mills, but with a black warp and black weft (horizontal) threads. The fabric is quite starchy, making it very stiff at first, which we hope will result in beautiful grey fades. This denim does not have the vertical striping that can be seen in it's indigo sibling, resulting in a very consistent and dark black. This denim is woven with a "Blackhorse Black" black selvedge line. Now incredibly low in stock, we can only make up a couple more pairs. Fortunately, we have some stunning black denim from Candiani that has a similar vibe.

    Jeans with this denim:
    E8 Slim Tapered 14oz Black Selvedge Jean

     Orta 14oz Indigo Selvedge Denim

    The 14oz selvedge denim from Orta Mills is a classic fabric that we've used since the start of Blackhorse Lane Ateliers. It offers an amazing quality to price ratio that's hard to beat. The denim has a subtle green cast that can be seen in strong light, yet fades with vivid, bright blues. The weft threads are a natural colour, which gives the denim a bit of subtlety. The fabric also has a textured handle, that can be seen even more as the fabric wears. It's a bit starchy, but not too much -- resulting in a denim that softens nicely. It comes with a bold red selvedge line.

    NW3 Heritage Straight Indigo Selvedge Jean

     Isko 14oz Indigo Selvedge Denim

    Similar to the Orta 14oz, this ISKO version has a smoother finish and feels somewhat crisper in hand feel. Due to the Orta fabric batch becoming unavailable, we switched to this denim as an "evergreen" - a denim that we use across most styles and will continue to use (you can see it with the code T47). The weft threads are still a natural colour, which means you have a subtle indigo blue. There is a classic red on ecru selvedge. You can still request the Orta 14oz for the NW3 if you prefer that denim, though as the NW3 has had some fit improvements, sometimes the boxier waist doesn't suit all body shapes. If in doubt, send an email.

    Jeans with this denim:
    E5 Relaxed Tapered 14oz Indigo Selvedge Jean
    NW1 Relaxed Straight 14oz Indigo Selvedge Jean
    NW3 Slim Straight 14oz Indigo Selvedge Jean
    E14 Wide Leg 14oz Indigo Selvedge Jean << not yet online, but available in-store.

     Orta 12oz Indigo Selvedge Denim

    This fabric is nearly identical to our Orta 14oz Indigo Selvedge Denim, but a couple ounces lighter. This results in a denim that fades in a similar way, but at a lighter weight, great for you in hotter climates or get down to some sweaty work. This denim also has a lower starch content, so it softens up quickly. Unfortunately this fabric is now unavailable, so we have only a small amount of remaning E5's left.

    Jeans with this denim:
    E5 Relaxed Tapered 12oz Indigo Selvedge Jean

     ISKO 10.5oz Indigo Denim

    At 10.5oz, this lighter-weight denim is perfect for tops. With a neppy finish created by the cotton yarns used, this fabric has a lot of character. The vivid orange selvedge is a great touch, adding cool to what could be considered as a vintage-look denim.

    Tops made in this denim:
    N1C 10.5oz Indigo Selvedge Artists' Tunic


    What is non-selvedge denim?

    Non-selvedge denim is woven on modern projectile looms, which gained popularity in the 1960s. Projectile looms can weave multiple meters width of denim at one time, and do so very fast. Weaving at high speed means that the denim does not finish it's own edge, and therefore is not "self edge" or selvedge. This results in a denim that offers fantastic price-to-quality ratio for the customer. Denimheads often raise their noses at any denim that is non-selvedge, but there are some non-selvedge gems out there - it also means you can do innovative things as you're not restrained by the loom. We think we've found a few truly lovely non-selvedge denims and are proud to include them in our collection. Each one has special reasons why we choose to work with it.

    What non-selvedge denims do we use?

    The benefit of non-selvedge denim is that the fabric is wider, usually a standard 150cm. The onset of the Industrial Revolution allowed looms to be mechanised, and therefore no longer needed the arm-width that traditional handlooms necessitate. This means that "less" fabric per garment needs to be used - more like 1.5 metre for a pair of jeans, compared to 3 metres when using selvedge denim. This brings the cost down, yet still allows you the beauty of wearing in raw denim.

     ISKO 14.5oz Organic Denim

    ISKO is the world’s largest producer of denim fabric, with 300 million metres of fabric produced a year. They're part of Sanko Tekstil, a multinational holding company with a well-established presence in the textile industry, and one that invests much into cutting edge technology and environmentally-friendly procedures. We love that this denim is woven with 100% organic cotton, not only for the soil but for the people growing the cotton crop and handling the fibre. Furthermore,  the denim's carbon footprint is quite low as it's milled very close to where it's grown.

    This denim is understated upon first view, but gets better with age. When raw, the denim is very crunchy and substantial. Upon a single wash, the grey cast in the denim washes away, revealing brighter indigo tones. The denim is also full of neppy (snowflake) and slubby (vertical streak) texture. The natural weft threads result in a vintage look to the denim upon heavy wear, which you can see in Greg's jeans over on our Denim Repairs: Fades and Fixes Gallery. Since this is a non-selvedge denim, we finish it with a tailoring detail -- a white piping edge (also known as a Hong Kong seam).

    Jeans with this denim:
    E5 Relaxed Tapered Indigo Organic Jean
    NW3 Heritage Straight Indigo Organic Jean

     The same denim after a single rinse:

     ISKO 12.5oz Stretch Denim

    Some garment fits are just better when there's ease of movement, and our women's high rise jean is one of them. Comfortable as soon as you put them on, they allow a full range of motion, while still giving you the raw denim patina. Woven by Isko in Turkey, this denim has a smooth consistent appearance and hand feel. Without a selvedge, we still want to ensure interest if you choose to turn up the hem, and also high-quality long-lasting finishes - so for this denim, we bind both seam edges in "Hong Kong" style. The mixed fibre composition of 94% cotton 4% polyester 2% elastane allows for a breathable fabric, with durability from polyester and stretch/recovery from the elastane.

    Jeans made in this denim:
    N5 High-Rise Slim-Straight 12.5oz Indigo Stretch Jean

     ISKO Double Indigo Denim

    This is a luxe denim. At 14oz, it's a substantial fabric for a jacket, but one that allow movement. The denim has both an indigo warp and weft, which results in a very rich, very dark fabric. The warp and weft threads are each dipped a different number of times in indigo, which results in a darker exterior, and a lighter interior - a tricky process, ensuring that the dye reaches all of the nooks and crannies without too much saturation. With this much indigo, we chose to give our E17 jacket one rinse to keep your favourite white garments from turning blue. With wear, this fabric develops even more texture, with slubiness peaking through the dark indigo.

    Jacket with this denim:
    E17 Double Indigo Chore Coat

     Orta Natural Indigo Denim

    Last, but not least is a beautiful 12oz denim from Orta Mills. Unfortunately, this particular denim that uses plant-based natural indigo dye, is no longer available. Due to the nature of natural indigo, you'll always get a batch production, but we are hoping to find this beaut again. When indoors or in low light, the fabric appears to be a subtle steel blue, while when in the light, it's a different story. The weft is a bright white, which means that the denim will fade with high contrast. That being said, natural indigo holds onto fabric better than synthetic indigo, so this garment will take some time to break-in. Pro tip: the bright blue lets you pull off double denim with a pair of dark selvedge jeans, or at least, no one has called us out on it yet.

    Garments with this denim:
    N17 Natural Indigo Chore Coat
    SW1 Natural Indigo Wide Trouser << last ever pair still available!!

     Candiani 13oz Ecru Denim

    A classy natural-colour 100% cotton denim with characterful appearance caused by the cotton seeds kept within the yarn. You get just a hint of light brown dottiness, more visible the closer you get. The denim twill weave is raised, unlike our other denims, and so creates a look with substance. It is going to get dirty, that's the nature of clean things, so wash these as often as you need to. This is a rigid denim, so will shrink in the length when washed. It feels quite hearty, yet soft, and will soften further with wear and washing.

    We finish the internal side seams with a "Hong Kong" seam in white binding to continue the elegance of this denim. Originally, we used a Berto ecru denim, which has a red line selvedge instead of taped seams, and is woven with a flatter finish (no cotton seed character). This one is now only available in sporadic sizes of the NW3.

    Jeans made in this denim:
    E5 Relaxed Tapered 13oz Ecru Jean
    NW3 Slim Straight 13oz Ecru Jean




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