Fashion is deeply rooted with the self and is combined with one`s culture, rules, codes and reference points. The subcultures in fashion mostly have an anti-establishment attitude and relate to the environment that they are born out of. In the introduction of “The World Atlas of Street Fashion” by Caroline Cox she writes “Street fashion exist to turn heads and create comment, morphing into what historian Elizabeth Wilson calls `the poster for one`s act`. The message can be one of resistance, subversion, musical affiliation or a combination of all three, and a group of likeminded individuals can create a powerful sartorial force moving beyond fashion`s mere billboard for the latest brands”.
Denim and jeans have been a solid part of the street fashion scene and throughout the history have reflected the subcultural perception boldly, appearing in most movements like grunge, hipster, dandy, goth, casual, northern soul, raggare, skinhead, metalhead which fashion revisits not only as trends but as cultural expressions.
I have had the honor to collaborate with Ted Polhemus on the launch of a denim collection almost 15 years ago and his understanding of popular culture shines light on the present as well as the future. In his The Language of Brands; Ted Polhemus says “The most compact and potent of visual signaling systems, brands allow consumers to express complex beliefs and values instantaneously. But as the lifestyle message becomes the product companies need to constantly monitor and precisely shape what it is that the brand signifies…..What people urgently need in the world today are signaling systems which allow them to project and advertise their own personal values and objectives.”
As we live through unprecedent times and as supply chains become operational it has become ever more necessary to consider the impact that the fashion can make. Brands which can lead with community-driven, value-centered strategies, are dedicated to being accountable for the greater good, creating products and services which are regenerative, paying fair wages to their employees, treating their supply chain as partners will emerge as profitable leaders of change. It is time that the brands ask their customers what they want and listen – it is crucial to define or maybe redefine the value to the customers. Would de-growth be an option in an industry where the overproduction and overconsumption cost earth life, depletion of natural resources, dressed-up slavery disguised as cheap labor for cheaper products? Can we think about growth to bring positive impact? Can brands, companies have not only profit targets but people and earth targets? I will explore these ideas further in the coming weeks and I want to leave you with a suggestion to reach out to the individuals who have set up their businesses with passion, dedication as their true stories will be inspiration for the impact that the bigger businesses target.
Meet Solomon Russell of Left Hand Twill does not talk about growth but more about the values behind his business. Solomon says: “Left Hand Twill’s objective is to reduce the pounds of textiles that are placed in landfills every year; by offering an array of finely curated vintage denim and denim accessories. LHT is dedicated to helping our customers find the perfect pair of jeans while expanding their knowledge on the vast world of denim."
IF: How did the idea of Left Hand Twill emerge? What is the story behind the story? What is it that invited you to start Left Hand Twill?
Solomon: My mind is kind of like a revolving chamber of a few ideas, they just rotate from the front to back until I get stuck on one particular idea. When I moved back home to Denver from New York I was kind of depressed because I left the city that I’ve always appreciated but in doing so the idea for LHT finally shifted and the idea stuck. I had time to think about what I really wanted to pursue in life and ultimately it was denim. I took time to learn - I knew the history of cotton so reading up on denim history was intriguing because they go hand in hand. I also took a lot of time to think about LHT as a brand because it’s a representation of myself, so I wanted to reflect who I was into that message. At the time and still is, the idea of ownership is a big thing to me. People aspire to own their homes, cars and businesses and I feel the same way about denim. Not only just buying it but making a pair of jeans or jacket unique to the owner, by personalizing, tailoring or mending. That’s why LHT’s slogan is “Own Your Denim.”
IF: Each and every denim head has a unique voice. What differentiates Left Hand Twill?
Solomon: Before denim, I was doing music for a long time. I wrote my first song lyric in the 4th grade. Fast forward to living in Brooklyn, I was studying Film & Video but dropped out of school. I needed to work full time in order to continue living in the city. Plus, I got back into making music, so I made some big life choices for myself in order to continue my creative pursuit. I definitely took an unbeaten path to get to Left Hand Twill but living my life and taking risk is what lead me here today. I know my story is relatable to a lot of people because I grew up around kids that took the same risk in order to be happy. So, if there’s anything that differentiates LHT it’s that we’re a relatable brand to the creative struggle.
IF: How do you define your connection to denim and jeans? What is it that keep you connected ?
Solomon: It’s an everyday fabric, an everyday connection. The more you wear your jeans the better they get. They grow with you, fade and get better with you each time you wear them. My bond with this particular fabric has grown so much over the past few years and there’s so much to learn about it. Even if I try and disconnect to give my mind a rest, the thought of denim is always there. I want to learn all there is about this fabric. My heart and brain are definitely connected at all times.
IF: You have a great sense of design and you actually work with concepts and contemporary culture. What do you see happening in the denim and jeans industry in the coming 12 months?
Solomon: Thank you! I believe we’ll see more brands tap into social issues through their garments. Sustainable practices will be upheld hopefully but design wise I think it’s indicative for brands and companies to dig deeper into their stories. At least that’s something I plan on doing, there’s a few great examples of brands that have been doing that over the years and it’s has to be appreciated. The world has been through a lot with Covid-19 and the racial tensions across the globe and it should be documented. Whether it be through clothing, music and film, there’s a lot of stories to tell from what we’ve been through. The denim industry has the platform and is far too important to sleep through what’s going on today.
IF: What would be a dream project that you would like to work on?
Solomon: Ooooh, I don’t know if I have a particular dream project. I do know a dream of mine is to continue to push Left Hand Twill as far as I can. All projects that come through this brand is a dream come true in a sense.
IF: What would you like to say to the denim consumers of today?
Solomon: It’s easy to tell people to shop smart. A lot of people don’t have the means to do that. I know shopping second hand is an option but for families with kids, finding their sizes can be an issue while doing so. I think the answer to this question is a bit harder than telling people to shop sustainable and stop buying fast fashion. We as denim heads know that spending money at fastfashion.com isn’t the way to go. So, in a sense it’s almost like we’re preaching to choir. At some point, I’d like to provide more outreach to communities in the inner city who don’t have the option for sustainable denim. It’s not that they don’t want it, it’s just not readily available to them. I’m not exactly sure how I will go about that but it’s something I’m definitely brainstorming. At the end of the day we’re all consumers of the most common fabric of the world, which is denim, buy what you need. We can only wear one pair of jeans at a time.
IF: Is denim and music connected? How would you define this? What would be the tune for your collection?
Solomon: Denim and music are definitely connected. Those are two of the most universal languages of the day. With no voice, denim tells a story the same way a song can. Musicians wear denim as their canvas daily so those two things will forever be connected at the hip. The soundtrack to my collection is definitely a mix of Rap, Jazz, R&B and Soul Music. Those are the sounds that raised me and continue to influence me to this day.
IF: Unprecedent global happenings since the beginning of 2020. How will all this impact jeans and denim? ( this is not related to the industry but more of a cultural change expression that we might see happening)
Solomon: I’ve been to a couple of protest in my town over the killing of George Floyd and I’ve seen a few jackets used as a canvas to express how they’re feeling over the matter. That’s the beauty of denim. It’s a blank canvas waiting to be expressed through personalization. Whenever there’s a major global event you can always count on a message being plastered on the back of someone’s jacket because denim has been used as a statement for years!
IF: How did Left Hand Twill spend the lockdown?
Solomon: In the beginning of the lockdown it was a bit of a frenzy. Slowly but surely I was able to unplug from the news and give myself a chance to relax. Eventually I was able to think about the future of LHT and plan some things out that are happening now. So, the time was needed, and I took advantage of it. I know everyone wasn’t fortunate enough to stay indoors so to those who were working through that time, I really do salute you for doing that.
IF: What is the Twill Beach Story?
Solomon: Twill Beach is a collection that I’ve been working hard on the past few months and one of the things I had a lot time to work on during the lockdown. One of my favorite things to do is watch old beach films like “The Beach Girls and the Sea Monster,” and “Jaws.” Not only are those movies entertaining but the casual style of beach dress was always intriguing. A lot of the men were in selvedge denim or khakis and a lot of women were wearing “play-clothes,” which is a uniformity look that I really love to see. So, my inspiration for a S/S collection started there. As I continued to research, I couldn’t find any old beach movies with a predominately black cast or even photos of black people at the beach. Except one black and white photo of a few kids holding a banner that said, “FREE THE BEACHES.” I continued to read about the origins of this photo and like most things in the 50’s and 60’s here in America the beach was also heavily segregated. Along Connecticut’s coast the privatization of land and beaches have been locked down to public beach goers. That still stands today in the year 2020. So, the idea of freeing the beach lays at the core for me and this collection that is Twill Beach. It’s an eight- garment collection, infused with indigo and light weight pieces to keep you cool in the warmer months and one slightly heavier jacket for the cooler spring nights. That’s Twill Beach // FREE THE BEACHES // Twill Beach Is for The People of The Public!
IF: Your beloved piece of denim?
Solomon: My most beloved piece of denim is my Lee Storm Rider Jacket. I can’t wait for the weather to cool down so I can start wearing again.