What is Virgin (Raw) Denim?

We know that denim jargon and terminology can be confusing, so we’ll break this down for you in a simple way! Here’s your guide to virgin denim.

Virgin denim, also known as “raw” denim,” is denim that has been dyed and woven, but hasn’t undergone a pre-wash. Simply put: when it came off the loom, it was immediately cut and sewn into jeans without any distressing or washing.

When you first purchase virgin denim jeans, they are like a blank canvas. They’ve got a deep blue indigo colour with a slight shine, and they’re stiff when you first put them on. Because the fabric’s had no wash, the fabric is one monotone shade with no wear effects like the whiskers, fading or other effects you’ll see on washed jeans. (Aside: up until the 1970s, most jeans were made from virgin or “raw” denim. Today, most jeans are made with denim that’s already been washed during to shed ink off the fabric and pre-shrink it.)

The magic of virgin denim starts to happen as you break them in. After six months of regular wear, the indigo will slowly wear off and your own unique wear pattern will start to form. The denim moulds to your body, resulting in a completely one-of-a-kind, personalised product.

Each whisker, honeycomb and crease is an authentic reflection to the life your jeans have lived. All of your mannerisms will appear in the jeans, like if you carry a wallet in a certain pocket or always itch the same spot. The original stiffness will disappear and they’ll be fully moulded to your own body.

It takes months — even years — of commitment, but the result will be pretty sweet.

Please note: virgin denim cannot be washed in a regular machine. Click here for our 10 Step Guide on how to wash your virgin jeans.

Meet the Repair Artist: Clinton James Topley

Clinton James Topley is a bona fide denim enthusiast. His career with DENHAM dates back to 2011, when he began working as a sales assistant in London. He since relocated to Amsterdam, where he heads up the men’s denim bar and Service Co. Here, he shares insight into his role as a denim repair artist.

Name: Clinton James Topley

Age: 38

Location: Amsterdam, the Netherlands

Number of years working at DENHAM?

Since 2011.

In your words, what’s the concept of the Service Co?

It’s customer service on steroids. It’s very practical — not a gimmick or a sales tool. It’s something the customer can respect and appreciate as soon as they walk in the store. You get the feeling that we’re hands-on; it’s the visual signature of the brand, without speaking about it.

How did you become involved with the Service Co.?

I am a hands-on guy, and like working directly with the product and machinery. The Service Co. is what set DENHAM apart for me.

What do you like about your job?

It’s never the same day twice!

What type of equipment do you use?

Not many companies give their staff the types of the sewing machines that I get to use here. We have a Singer darning machine 153B1, a Union Special (mainly for raw and colour block denim) and a Durkopp sewing machine (great for stitching patches and hems).

What’s the most challenging repair you’ve ever done?

The first repair I ever did, which was a women’s jacket that she always wore with a bag carried over her shoulder. The fabric was totally worn out, so I took it home and worked on it for three days — all repaired by hand.

Do you have a repair specialty?

I think I’ve spent the most hours on the Singer 153B1 sewing machine. I try to bring “The truth is in the details” to the repair shop.

What’s your best Service Co. memory?

My first tour of Asia on a Service Co. road show. We went for a week and did pop-up Service Cos at different Lane Crawford stores in Hong Kong.

What’s the most unique service request you’ve ever received?

A customer had had an accident, and the medics needed to cut his jeans off. They were only two weeks old and hardly worn, so I resealed the denim from the top to the bottom.

What’s your favourite pair of jeans?

Too many!

Have you ever had a jean that was so worn-in you couldn’t repair it?

A few times. I try to never turn people away, but sometimes when a jean is dead, it’s dead. I’ve never turned a rigid jean away, but sometimes with stretch you aren’t able to repair it anymore.

Photos courtesy Iris Duvekot.

Jason Denham’s Favourite Things in Amsterdam

Though originally from England, Jason Denham (Founder of DENHAM the Jeanmaker), has lived in Amsterdam for over 20 years. From shopping to beer drinking, here are his tips for how to best enjoy Amsterdam.

9 Streets

My favourite district in Amsterdam is the “9 Streets.” I put the DENHAM HQ there and I live very close by. In the last 10 years I have watched the 9 Streets evolve. This area is full of hotels, bars, cafes, galleries, flower stores and smaller boutique speciality stores.

Canals at Sunrise

In the days before we had our daughter, I had a terrible habit of waking up and going to the studio at 5:00 a.m. Now I have a little more “life balance.” Though I have to admit that I love the city at this time. The canals are beautiful and very still — you feel like you own the city at this time of day.

Libertine

This place has a buzzing brassiere vibe. It’s a cool hotspot to hang out and have some bites and a drink.

Mendo

I love to collect and get inspired by books. MENDO, in Amsterdam’s 9 Streets, is one of my favourites. I feel like we’ve grown up with MENDO, because they opened two years before DENHAM, just around the corner. They have a beautiful store design and an incredible passion for retail.

Foodware

Sander is the best-dressed chef in Amsterdam and he makes the healthiest, tastiest lunchtime bites.

Brown Cafes

I love to have a beer on any terrace in the summer, and the dusty old brown bars in the winter. One of my favourites is Cafe Tabac on the Brouwersgracht.

Eye Film Museum

This film museum is incredible; Amsterdam also has lots of cinemas, from small art house films to blockbuster locations.

Coffee

I love coffee so much so that I decided to make one of our stores a coffee bar. We open at 8:00 a.m. everyday. My favourite coffee is Buscaglione Italian coffee, so we partnered with them to supply our beans. All of the staff is barista trained. Retail today is an experience, that’s why good coffee is so important.

Noodermarkt

This sums up Amsterdam life. You have beautiful organic markets with fresh, incredible ingredients. My wife and I like to go shopping there on weekends.

Photos courtesy Iris Duvekot.

How to Wash Virgin Denim

Once you’ve invested in a pair of virgin denim jeans, it’s important to take care of your purchase with proper washing. But there’s a secret art to washing virgin denim … in the name of the holy denim gods, please do not put these jeans into a regular washing machine! Here’s our 10-step guide on how to hand-wash your virgin denim.

Before you begin the wash, double check your bathtub and make sure there are no chemicals or residues in it! The last thing we want is your jeans getting accidentally bleached.

Remember: virgin denim should be worn as much as possible before you wash them.  Before your first wash, we recommend you wait six months (yes, six months!). This will help to create a more unique, imprinted wear pattern.

  1. Check your pockets, close the buttons and turn the jeans inside out (this is important for preserving the colour of the denim).
  2. Fill the bathtub with cold water (or lukewarm at most). Add some gentle soap or a denim wash and let it dissolve.
  3. Submerge the jeans, lying flat in the water, for 30 to 45 minutes. You may need to add some weights to hold them down. Don’t freak out if the water turns blue! It’s normal that virgin denim will bleed a little, especially on the first wash.
  4. Once soaked, dip the jeans in and out of the water a few times.
  5. In the meantime, you can lightly brush the fabric (still on the inside) with a gentle brush and a little bit of soap. But don’t use anything too abrasive, and always brush in the direction of the fabric.
  6. Place the jeans back in the tub and rinse until clean. Refresh the water as many times as needed.
  7. Once clean, remove the jeans and turn them right-side-out.
  8. Pull into shape and let them air dry vertically (wise to do this outside, as they’ll drip water for a bit).
  9. Let them air dry for at least 48 hours. Voila!

If that sounds like too much work, you can also visit our stores with a DENHAM Service Co. and we’ll hand-wash your jeans for you.

If you need to freshen your denim along the way, either hang them inside out in a steamy bathroom, or use our DENHAM Denim Refresh spray.

Photo courtesy Iris Duvekot.