Tuesday, May 14

Rogan Gregory on Selvage Denim

ROGAN the brand and the man are grounded by the pursuit of quality in material and authenticity in design.  Rogan Gregory talks about the richness of selvage fabric, the beauty in flaw, and the industrialization of the fashion industry...

Tell us a story about selvage...
Once upon a time, a long long time ago there was a loom... Originally fabric was made on a mechanical loom. You have the warp, which runs vertically, and you have the weft, which runs horizontally - that’s the way all fabric is woven. Before 1960 all fabric was approximately 30 inches wide, sometimes 45. The shuttle, which is a spool of yarn that they shoot this way (pointing to the right) and then back (pointing to the left), as the warp opens and closes. In the 60s they engineered a wider width at 60 inches and they used air to blow yarn through without the shuttle. These are single yarns that are shot across, leaving a frayed edge.

Sounds pretty old school. 
Yes, it’s old machinery that some mills have kept in good working condition. Some mills here in the States and in Japan use the same old machinery. It’s not efficient or cost effective to use that machinery any more...it's really a luxury.

How different is the quality? 
There are naturally occurring flaws in the fabric, whereas in the newer looms they really have engineered the flaws out of it because there aren’t as many moving parts. The more moving parts, the more mechanisms, the more likelihood there will be more unintended flaws.

And you want that? 
Yes, that’s what I like. I like the character in the yarn and the little flaws that occur when you use selvage.  My perspective on quality is different than the average. I see quality as richness and character.  I see soul in selvage fabric. I think part of the point of industrialization is perfection, to engineer the flaws and engineer the character out of everything. No one ever lets anything get dirty. If you have a red oak floor and you sand it and put f*ing shellac on it, to me that wood loses its soul and becomes sterile.

How do you know a piece is selvage?
Turn your cuff up and look and there’s usually a couple stripes along the edge of the fabric, usually red and white, but they can be all kinds of different colors. With selvage, the edge is already bound so you don’t need to surge the edges - surging is when you bind the edge with thread to prevent fray. On the outseam of ROGAN denim you will see the bound edge and sometimes in detail on a front pocket.

Is ROGAN selvage always red and white?
We have several different selvages. Sometimes white, depending on where the fabric comes from – if it’s from a certain mill they have a certain selvage that they use.

Does anyone else use selvage?
Very few brands do because it’s more costly, and there are flaws that most clothing companies try to avoid. We use it because it’s just the most authentic. I feel like the real way it’s supposed to be done and was done in the era of clothing that I appreciate, when things were really well-made, they used selvage fabric. I associate best quality with selvage.

Is it an interesting process to see? 
Yes (with a "you have no idea" look).

Check back here for photos of the selvage process to see for yourself. For now, shop ROGAN selvage.

Images of Rogan and Chancho by Refinery 29.