Must Read

This is the under-the-radar demin label you need to know about

While we look towards Japan and the US for raw denim jeans, our own local brand Kerbside & Co. is gaining love among denim enthusiasts in the US and Europe. Its Americana-style raw denim jeans, pants and accessories tap on its founder's decades-long passion for American heritage workwear
 

Photo: Angela Guo

 

In this era of instant gratification, raw denim is deliberately, enjoyably slow. It takes a lot of consistent wear and patience before it becomes what it's supposed to be - something that's personally yours, where the initial stiffness and dark indigo eventually give way to a softer, more individual fit, and all fades come naturally from your daily movements and wear, not from a sandblaster in a factory.

This three-part series will highlight three labels here who have each taken raw denim and given it their own distinct POV. One does modern European cuts, another focuses on Americana heritage workwear styles, and the last specialises in custom-made jeans - and all three take pride in their exacting quality standards.

The second part of this story features Kerbside & Co. Read the first part here and the final one here.

 

Photo: Angela Guo

 

As a brand that started in 2015, it doesn't have much of a heritage to speak of, and all its wares are new. But what founder Fahmy Ismail, 43, lacks in the vintage department, he makes up for it with his knowledge of the old guards - Levi's and Lee - and vintage American workwear from the mid-20th century.

"In the mid-'90s, I started collecting jackets, shirts, canvas pants and denim jeans from the '40s and '50s, though I eventually sold most of them when my collection grew too massive," says Fahmy.

After two decades in the media industry, he left his job in 2014 and returned to his first love, raw denim.

He e-mailed hundreds of suppliers in Japan and the US, found a handful who were willing to work with the quantity he could produce, and with his savings, he purchased expensive bolts of raw denim, had them made into jeans in Japan, and started Kerbside & Co.

 

Photo: Angela Guo

 

He does everything the old-fashioned way, at his own pace. He has an Instagram account, but no Facebook. He also hasn't quite figured out how to make his website SEO-friendly, but is in no hurry to.

But without any real marketing push, Kerbside & Co. has been featured at least five times in Dutch, Italian and American magazines and denim-related websites, and has loyal customers in the West.

"So far, 70 per cent of my customers are from America, while 25 per cent are from Europe. Only about 5 per cent are from Asia, including Singapore."

It's a one-man operation: he answers all email queries himself, and has once even accepted a request to make size 44 jeans at no additional charge despite the large amount of extra raw denim required (his off-the-rack sizes currently go up to 36). Denim enthusiasts who recognise the fabrics he uses have also guessed - correctly - that he is not making much of a profit, but Fahmy is not raising prices yet.

 

Photo: Angela Guo

 

While customers here favour skinnier fits with stretch, Fahmy sticks to his own brand - Americana style with zero stretch. To complement his jeans, Fahmy also designed accessories like a heavy-duty tote (pictured above) made with sturdy Japanese canvas from Okayama. The design is based on old-style newspaper carriers from the '40s, and comes in M and L.

"The way I run my business may not be ideal, but I am not out to rule the world," he says. I have made my money from working for a few decades, and now I just want to put effort into making good-quality products."

Buy Kerbside & Co. at www.kerbside-co.com.

 

Want to dive deeper into the world of raw denim? First, familiarise yourself with its lingo so you don't get confused. We've put together a concise 101 below for newbies to raw denim:

 

 

ALSO READ: 7 WAYS TO DO SMART CASUAL WITH DENIM

 

A version of this story first appeared in the February 2019 issue of Her World.

Photography: Angela Guo

Styling: Bryan Goh

Loading...