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Denimheads from New York to Tokyo go nuts for Naked & Famous, a Canadian anti-it brand focused on Japanese denim. Founder Brandon Svarc heads to The Tannery's two locations this weekend (711 Boylston Street on Saturday and 39 Brattle Street on Sunday) to fit customers in his unrivaled range of jeans—classic styles mix with crazy treatments like scratch and sniff, glow in the dark, and cashmere blends. Added bonus: Each customer that makes a Naked & Famous purchase will receive a custom denim origami, folded on-site by Svarc himself. In anticipation of the visit, we spoke with Svarc about his obsession with Japan, family history in the business, and the grand debate of whether or not to wash raw denim.
What's up with the denim origami?
Well, I'm very nerdy, but it's the new cool so don't even worry about it. We love Japan, we love everything Japanese and all of our fabrics come from Japan. I'm continuing the theme with the store. I've always been fascinated with origami since I was a little kid because I thought it was so beautiful to create something from nothing. My business is jeans, my hobby is origami so I thought let's do something badass and put the two together.
Who is your guy in Boston?
People always ask me my demographic and I say anyone who wants a badass pair of jeans and doesn't want to get ripped off.
Why don't you want to wash raw denim as you wear it?
That is an often asked, good question. Many people will give a rule and say you're not supposed to wash them. We never tell people to not wash their jeans, unless they don't want to. For me the whole fun of raw denim is that you get to decide. My doctor, a 55 year old guy, doesn't give a shit about how his jeans fade. He calls me up one day saying his son says he's not allowed to wash his jeans because they are raw selvedge denim. I said "Don't worry." He doesn't care, he wants to wear his jeans because they're clean and go to a cocktail party and wear them with a blazer. But his son is a 21 year old guy who is on a longboard all day, wearing the same pair every day for two years that he never washed. So why do people do it? Because they want to get a personalized pair of jeans.
What about the freezer trick?
Again, people always ask me is it true or not. I don't care actually. Denim is the only product in the world that has all these mysteries and all this fun. Personally I don't believe it will clean the jeans, but maybe they will smell a bit better.
How did you originally get into denim and more specifically Japanese denim?
My family has been in the denim and workwear industry for 67 years, so I have a bit of a head start. I have indigo in my veins. Even when I was born, my dad made a brand of jeans named after me, called David Brandon. It's not cool, I promise, but it still exists today. When I started Naked & Famous six and a half years ago, I told myself I wanted to be the opposite of all the Hollywood bullshit. The other brands are not selling jeans; they're selling glamour and sex and advertising and silliness. I want to sell product instead of selling image. I want to make a far superior product for a much lower price, the best of the best. Where is the cult for denim? Some people would think it was Italy, but the more I looked I saw it was Japan. I fell in love with it and there was no going back.
How have you evolved as competitors for pared-down premium denim entered the space?
Many companies have copied our formula but we still offer the best value. We make crazy products no one else makes. I come out with 30 new fabrics every year. We have the core basics but we also have the fun wild crazy stuff like scratch and sniff, waterproof jeans, hologram jeans, next season we're doing reflective denim. We have cashmere blends and linen blends and hemp blends.
How do you explain that breadth of fabric to a customer?
Through the internet. But we also have a piece of paper on the back pocket that gives information on it.
What's the first thing you look for when finding the right fit?
With men's it's way easier than women's. You gotta judge body type. A big muscle dude will need a wider fit, but if a small Asian student comes in I'll go for the skinny. We also make very long jeans. You always start with the guy's shape.
How does manufacturing in Canada fit into your brand vision?
I think it's super important to make stuff where you're from. We are a Canadian brand, so we will always make our jeans in Canada. I will close down the brand before moving it overseas. I think Americans do appreciate that we are made in Canada. Another huge advantage for customers as well: There's this guy, he's famous from your country, you've probably heard of him…Bill Clinton. He made the North American Free Trade Agreement, so everything we make here gets sent to the US with no duty. There's no fake value in our pricing.