Glad to have you with us for another insightful instalment of the ‘Brands…’ edition of the 10@10.
This week we have a good one folks as @benzakdenimdevelopers enlighten us with their focus and ideals. A company built on a “…passion for Japanese denim and craftsmanship, combined with contemporary European fits” we believe that Lennaert (Founder/Owner) has probably got you covered for the next 10/15 minutes so I’d get yourselves settled.
A beautifully branded ‘Brand’, BDD are situated out of Amsterdam, in the heart of the burgeoning European scene and to add further fervour to whet your collective whistles “…all jeans are made in Kojima, Japan, from the finest Japanese selvedge denim”. We all know the quality + design that leaves THAT place?!
Going to be keeping my intros/outros a touch shorter to let the real talent sing so…it’s time to sit back, relax, crack open a beer and enjoy the thoughts of Lennaert as @benzakdenimdevelopers answers the @clobbercalm 10@10.
MEET THE BRAND BEHIND THE MENSWEAR
NAME: Lennaert Nijgh
BRAND: Benzak Denim Developers
ESTABLISHED: We released our first collection in stores in September 2013.
SIZE OF TEAM: Mostly just me, with the help of some freelancers.
SPECIALITY/COMPANY FOCUS: High quality jeans, produced in Japan and Europe, and a sportswear oriented apparel line.
1. Straight forward, please tell us, how did your company Benzak Denim Developers start out?
BDD was born from the passion for high quality, dry selvedge jeans. I fell in love with the product at the age of 16. By the time I was 18 I had collected a good amount of (mostly) Japanese jeans, and I told myself: this is what I want to do. Realizing I had to learn a lot and get in touch with the right people first, I started an education at AMFI (Amsterdam Fashion Institute) and worked in denim shops for quite some years. After my graduation in 2008 I immediately founded my company Benzak Design & Development and started working on various projects, while at the same time learning through another job as a product developer. In 2011 I met my current Japanese producer, and in 2013 we released the first Benzak Denim Developers (made in Japan) products on the market.
2. Tell us. What does a day in the life of yourself look like? What’s your daily work routine?
Every day is different. Because I do almost everything within the company myself it depends on the time of the year. For example, we are now still in the AW17 sale season, getting in pre-orders for our July/August/September deliveries. But at the same time I am guiding the production of a couple of reorders. And I am about to start with the development of some new styles, planned for early 2018 release.
3. What are your top 3 bestselling items? Why do you think this is?
BDD-006 deep indigo 15.7 oz. RHT
This style has been part of the collection since 2013 and has been selling really steady ever since. The idea of the made in Japan line is to combine Japanese craftsmanship with modern European cuts, and I think this is a perfect example of it. Also, this slim fit has a very wide range; only guys with huge upper thighs will not fit it.
BDD-016 grey blue 13.5 oz. LHT
This style was released in 2014 and is a variant of the BDD-006. The differences are that the legs are slightly smaller at the bottom, and the back pockets are a bit shorter. But what I think is most attractive of this style is the grey blue fabric. The colour stands out from the rest of the collection, and even in store it will pop out from the others. The fabric is not that heavy and very soft for a dry, due to the left hand twill.
B-01 SLIM 15 oz. indigo
This style is part of the BENZAK – EUROPEAN MADE line, released in July 2016. It follows the exact same silhouette as BDD-016, but then with the EU details (meaning stripped down to the bare essentials: good fit, nice fabric, clean construction). The combination of the slim fit, 15 oz. denim and price point of EUR 179 makes this style sell very well.
4. What’s your personal favourite garment when it comes to the items you manufacture?
That’s asking a parent for their favourite kid! But I’ll give you 2:
BDD-710 green cast 14.7 oz. LHT
This fabric basically started the entire collection. When I found this green cast, left hand twill, perfect mid weight fabric, I know I had to build my collection around it.
SPECIAL #1 low tension 14 oz. RHT
This is the first BDD exclusive fabric. Together with our fabric supplier Collect Co. in Kojima, Japan, we developed this fabric for our exclusive use. 14 oz. is in my opinion the perfect mid-weight, all year fabric to go for. The structure is uneven and has little slubs, which I love for its unique fading capabilities. The selvedge colours are yellow and green, and represent the 3 stages of natural indigo dyeing: the dye turns yellow, then green, and eventually becomes the dark blue colour that we all know.
5. What are your thoughts on the rise of Instagram fashion and the chaps that post their clothing on there to help spread the word of their fave brands?
I think it’s a great platform for all of us! The best thing about it is that our denim industry is not yet spoiled with high-paid influencers with over 100K followers. I also don’t think that would work with this type of product. It’s about a lifestyle, not fashion, and you can’t fake that. Guys posting their outfits and favourite brands, still do it because they do it voluntarily, and that’s what makes it believable.
6. Has it made an impact on your business at all, do you think?
For sure. A small independent brand like mine doesn’t have much to spend on marketing, so this new and relatively cheap way of showing my concept and products to the world helps me grow the business in a very sustainable and healthy way.
7. Is there any feeds on IG that you particularly like to check-in on regular. What brands are you fond of on there? What menswear feeds to you like to peruse?
Too many to mention! Don’t forget: I started once as a fan of this lifestyle as well 🙂 I follow a combination of individual IG’ers (like you, @hansjellema, @jasonvanpul, @craftedparis to name a few), other brands and stores, and some media/repost accounts (like @robindenim). And I have some other passions/hobbies as well such as Nintendo and toy collecting, so I follow a couple of those IG accounts as well.
8. A quick one about you. Other than the business, what passions do you have in life? What flicks your switch and helps you relax?
I’m a collector of various things. Besides denim-oriented stuff, I collect Ghostbusters and Thundercats toys from the 80s. And I don’t think a day passes by that I don’t play on one of my Nintendo’s; I’ve got most of the consoles, from the NES up until the WII U, but I have my 3DS always on my side. But also music keep me going; I always listen to music while working, and I visit concerts and clubs on a regular basis. I can appreciate a variety of genres and Amsterdam has so much to offer, from the Paradiso for concerts to De School for underground 24h techno. I just like a lot of other stuff and sometimes wish a day had more hours!
9. What do you consider to be the best thing about your business and why?
The fact that I am able to make a living of my passion. For me it’s not really work, it’s doing something I love.
10. And Lucky Last, You’re going to be stranded on a desert island and you can take 1 outfit (4 items) only with you. And 1 choice of drink.
What would they be? And Why?
That would be a nightmare.. I prefer cold weather (so I can wear my jeans) and I need power for my 3DS! But okay, let’s set that aside, here’s what I will bring:
1). Still a pair of jeans, preferably my precious BDD-710. If it’s too hot I will cut them off with some rocks!
2). My BDD-BC30 cap in navy. I wear caps a lot, feels and looks good (although the latter will not be that important anymore). This colourway was the first I produced together with Ebbets Field Flannels back in 2013, so it’s very dear to me.
3). An old t-shirt with some random Toronto print I own. I found it years ago while browsing through the vintage section of Chatuchak Weekend Market in Bangkok. It has no sideseam and is a bit oversized. The fabric has been worn so much that it became really soft and drapy. But the quality is so nice an durable that it doesn’t have any holes, nor does it show any sign of getting worn through any time soon. I just love to wear this t-shirt on warmer days!
4). A pair of Converse All Stars, high and in off white. Not the 70s version, they’re too shiny. Just because.
Drink). A bottle of red wine, Merlot preferably. And with a screw cap, otherwise I’ll be screwed (pun intended :D)
Tip-top stuff Lennaert! Really enjoyed your write up and also appreciate the clean, crisp look of your photos. It’s the kind of shots that my bro @clobbercalm.cal gets giddy about with his design roots and all. Also, a very brave man risking the wrath of a red wine hangover on a desert island…a braver man than me buddy! Really appreciate you taking the time out to humour us and inform our faithful. Cheers and hope to speak soon.
Another short and sweet one, on Thursday we have @jaesungxlee as the ‘Men…’ feature for this week. Jaesung has great flow to his feed and with it featuring such stalwarts as Carhartt, 3sixteen, Lee 101 + Red Wing and lots of #brickporn it’s easy to see why he’s racked up 30K followers and counting! Make sure you tune in.
Have a tip top week folks and stay close, below is a few things listed FYI…
1). There are new products on the CLOBBERCALM STORE. Take a look, the independent craftsmen & woman that make our product are the real deal.
2). @threads.and.fades.2017 has hit the ground running so bob over and check it out.