Monday, September 13, 2010

Weekend FT: Operation Denim

By Julie Earle-Levine

August 21 2010

A pair of jeans before and after reconstruction
A pair of jeans before (above) and after reconstruction (below)
Finding the “perfect” pair of jeans among the hundreds on offer can be a daunting endeavour – and once you’ve found them, they are always almost impossible to replicate. But rather than buying one’s favourites in duplicate (or triplicate), there is another option for denim enthusiasts: specialists dedicated to preserving jeans in as good shape as possible for as long as possible.

Francine Rabinovich founded Denim Therapy, a Manhattan company that mends everything from ripped crotches to holey knees and torn hems, in 2006, and currently repairs about 600 pairs of jeans a month from places as far afield as Australia, Britain, Canada and France.

While dry cleaners and tailors often use patches to repair jeans, Denim Therapy reconstructs the original material using new cotton thread. Repairs usually take less than two weeks, and cost $7 per inch plus shipping (about $12); variables include “weight”, “wear” and “indigo saturation” to select the right thread. (Repairs to Gap jeans, for example, can run to $150.) The company also restores colour, turns light blue jeans dark ($85), and tie-dye jeans to grey, light blue and charcoal for $95.

“A lot of people are still trying to keep that relationship with their denim,” says Rabinovich. “They love their jeans. They love the fit. In many cases these brands stopped making the model of jean. A rocker musician – sorry, we can’t say who – came to see us with his favourite Simon Miller jeans, which had been discontinued, and he paid $600 to have extensive repairs done to both pairs.”

The main repairs? The crotch. “When you walk, there is a lot of rubbing, and the fabric starts to thin out,” explains Rabinovich. Putting jeans in the dryer makes them tight and stresses the fabric, which also leads to crotch splits, as does weight gain. Other common repairs include the back pockets for men (the problem is wallets) and torn hems, since many people don’t tailor them to the right height and walk on them.

Rabinovich said most of her customers own between five and 10 pairs of jeans, and buy between one and three every year. “They have an emotional connection,” she says. “They have jeans to go out in, jeans to travel with, jeans for housework. Some jeans they don’t wear any more but keep for some memory.”