An Interview With: David Hieatt of Hiut Denim
Hiut Denim are currently taking the world by storm, in this product driven society that we live in brands are always searching for the next step, the next idea, the next big tool to give themselves more exposure. Hiut Denim however have a different tactic; “do one thing, and do it well”.
The Cardigan based denim company have one of the best stories to tell to anyone who is a fan of clothing, and probably to some who aren’t.
We were fortunate enough to catch up with co-founder, David Hieatt, for a chat about all things denim and to learn more about his story.
You’re based in Cardigan, a small town with an exceptional knowledge of denim. For those who don’t know, can you tell us why Cardigan?
Well, to give your readers some context. We live in a very remote part of West Wales, on the very edge of Britain- closer to Ireland than to London. There’s more sheep than people. It is a remarkable place, but not just for its beauty.
For some odd reason it was home to a jeans factory. Indeed Britain’s biggest denim factory. It made 35,000 pairs of jeans every week for 3-4 decades employing 400 people. That’s a lot of jeans. And also, a lot of skill.
Then in 2001 the factory closed. It had fought the battle of who could be the cheapest. And it had lost. We will never win that battle again. Economics make decisions like that. But Clare and I decided 4 decades worth of skill and knowledge shouldn’t go to waste. But this time, we will fight a different battle. We will fight a battle based on quality and ideas.
The Hiut Denim Co was born to get the town making jeans again: That is its purpose.
In my opinion denim is probably the most personal item of clothing you can own, with everyone searching for the perfect fading process what do you consider so special about jeans?
For me, I love creative people. I admire them. I love the great changes they make in this world. And because jeans are one of those rare iconic pieces of clothing that are worn by one and by all, they are for everyone. Just like ideas. I love them for that quality. They are the uniform for creative man and woman. Those amazing people who push this world forward.
You create the stunning yearbooks, full of all things denim and all things Hiut. What was the thought process behind creating such a publication?
We are small. Our marketing budget is no bigger than our coffee budget. And we live in a very busy world. People’s attentions are being dragged from one place to another. We can’t do many things, so the things that we decide to do, we have to be amazing at. Or face the fact that we will die. Yes, that’s it: Be amazing. Or die.
The YearBook is our attempt to bookmark time. The same people come back each year. And we build our buildings on the farm. And, I hope, we at the same time help build our company. For us, print is alive and kicking- if you do it beautifully. And we spend our time trying to make it as beautiful as we can.
Andrew Paynter has agreed to take the photos for the first 10 years. He is like our Bruce Weber. And Nick Hand designs it. He is like our Jonathan Ive. Just thinking about it as I write, even the process of it is amazing. The first and second yearbooks are sold out. The third one is quite stunningly late. But it will be worth it.
Selvedge denim seems to be becoming more and more prominent as each year passes by, you sell your organic denim alongside the selvedge, can you tell us about both styles?
In our view, the best selvedge comes from Japan. They have taken it to another level. There are only a handful of truly iconic mills in Japan. They are very busy. They don’t need any more business. We were lucky and someone we know persuaded Kuroki that we were going to be the Apple of jeans. So Kuroki said yes. Our selvedge is hand dipped 10 times, and we use real indigo. It’s such a beautiful denim, we are extremely lucky.
Our organic denim comes from Isko. They are based in Turkey and are a very innovative, forward-looking mill. And they have the best range of organic. So again, we are lucky to be working with them, the relationship with the mills is pivotal for us. Great mills make great denim.
The history tag is a brilliant concept that allows your customers to share their progress on their journey with yourselves and other customers, how much importance do you place on this type of interaction?
The love we have for our things– our pens, shoes, cameras, our books, our music, our jeans– usually has something to do with the stories that we attach to them. Sometimes the stories are our own, sometimes other people’s. But those memories are subject to one threat: It’s called ‘Time Passing”. And with time passing those important memories fade (even the unforgettable brilliant ones!)
That got us thinking. On the one hand, we have the Luddite desire to make something well, to make something to last. To make a great pair of jeans, and on the other hand, we have the geeky side of us that understands the power of the Internet to tell stories.
For us, it’s like two roads coming together. And where they meet, is a really interesting place. And, as a company that’s where we want to be. At those crossroads between Luddite and Geek.
That’s why Hiut Denim was the first jean company in the world to have a History Tag. After all if we make a pair of great jeans that last, so should the memories that are made in them.
So, how does it work?
It’s super simple. Each jean will come with a unique number. Your own unique number. You go to the HistoryTag website and register. That’s it. Then you can upload pictures of where you went, what you did, who you did it with to the HistoryTag website.
All those memories get saved. Not a big deal right now. But when you look back, it will become a big deal. You could say the History Tag is a bit like a blank iPod, that as you add more and more music (in our case, memories) it becomes more and more interesting.
So if in the future, your jeans get handed down, or end up in a second hand jeans shop, its memories will go along with them. Your memories won’t be forgotten which we think is good. A good marriage between Luddite and Geek.
Can you think of any worn pair in particular that stands out as the most impressive you’ve seen?
I had the first pair that were a sample pair. They have had a hard life. I live on a farm. There are no lazy days. I feel for them. But they have a few stories to tell.
At Kolekto we believe that all of the creative industries are linked and inspire one another, ‘The Rivet Press’ would suggest that you agree, how have the likes of the music, film and art industry helped to create the Hiut product?
We make jeans for creative people. We believe in their ideas, and their energy to make them happen. They are changing the world. And we have been lucky to have spent all our working lives in the creative industries. So it is not so surprising that we just want to make jeans for them. We view the creative industries as a melting pot in which we get our inspirations come from all over the place.
In your Yearbook 001 you mentioned that obsessions can lead to greatness, can you remember your own earliest obsession?
My bedroom was covered from wall to wall, including the ceiling, with posters of sports brands and jeans brands. I dreamt about one day starting my own brand. And I would make it so inspirational that someone would want to cover their bedroom in our posters.
Recently you hacked the Rivet & Hide store with a talking window, how did that opportunity arise?
Nick from Knit called us and asked would be interested in doing one of the world’s first conductive ink windows, which when you touch them, start talking. Of course, we said yes. A ‘world’s first’ is always a good way to start the day.
What do you consider Hiut’s proudest achievement to date?
We crossed the start line. Most people talk about their dreams and never follow through and make them happen. But the proudest achievement will be when we can say we got 400 world-class makers their jobs back. The mission will not be complete until we do that.
Final question, with your motto of ‘do one thing, and do it well.’ What’s next for Hiut?
Our job is to have lots of ideas. Our other job is to keep them secret until they launch. I like the fact that some of the biggest jeans companies come and visit us to find out what we are doing. But one room always stays locked.
Final final question, can Kolekto get a freebie? By Kolekto I definitely mean myself, 32R please.
Yeah, we can get you a pair. I will ask Naomi to email you.