The Hallmarks of Top-Notch Jeans: What Makes the Difference?

in Aug 16, 2023
An insider look at a vintage shuttle loom in an undisclosed Japanese mill

There are 5 key pillars that contribute to the creation of a superior pair of jeans:
If you're interested in delving deeper into each step of this intricate process and understanding how it contributes to our premium denim jeans, you can find more detailed information below.


The quality of cotton, particularly its staple length, impacts the characteristics of denim. Longer staple cotton, like Zimbabwe cotton, contributes to stronger yet softer denim that ages well over time. This contrasts with shorter staple cotton, which tends to create a more uniform look. The preference for characterful or uniform denim is a matter of personal taste. While other aspects of cotton matter less than staple length, it's interesting to note that premium denim often has more natural character due to its production process. Additionally, high-end cotton production usually follows sustainable practices, contributing to a more eco-friendly outcome.


The choice between ring spinning and open-end spinning plays a significant role in the characteristics of denim. Ring spinning, the original method invented in 1828, involves thinning and twisting cotton to create a softer, stronger yarn with more variation. Open-end spinning, introduced in the 1970s, is akin to methods used for materials like shirts or tailoring, resulting in cleaner finishes and uniformity.

Ring spun denim tends to have a more irregular, natural look, while open-end spun denim often appears smoother and more refined. Italian mills like Candiani favor open-spun denim for uniformity, while Japanese mills embrace traditional methods for more interesting variations. Your preference for ring spun or open-end spun denim might depend on whether you value the organic, textured appearance or a smoother, tailored look reminiscent of fine shoes.


There are two main dyeing methods to consider: rope dyeing and slasher dyeing. Rope dyeing, the original technique, and slasher dyeing, developed in the 1970s, offer distinct approaches to coloring yarn. Notably, rope dyeing, which many denim types still use, leaves portions of the fabric white, contributing to the classic faded appearance associated with jeans. Slasher dyeing, on the other hand, involves exposing yarn to indigo for an extended time, resulting in greater absorption and less prominent fading.

Surprisingly, despite the focus on natural processes in denim production, the indigo used for dyeing is mostly synthetic. This shift occurred in 1913 when synthetic indigo gained popularity over natural indigo. Although natural indigo has a greener hue and fades more gradually, the denim industry primarily employs synthetic indigo due to its consistency and ability to create high-contrast fades.


The weaving process also presents a choice between two options: shuttle looms and projectile looms.

Denim woven on shuttle looms is characterized by slower weaving & narrow fabric bolts comprised of a continuous cross-yarn. This results in small batch fabrics that vary greatly in character depending on how the loom is set and how the yarn is produced. These qualities align with preferences of denim enthusiasts and complement the use of long-staple cotton, ring spinning, and rope dyeing. While shuttle looms are generally favored, some mills produce excellent denim on projectile looms through the use of superior materials and other techniques.

The dichotomy between loom types is further complicated by the concept of selvedge. Selvedge, the self-edge strip along both sides of the denim, prevents fraying and is often visible when jeans are cuffed. It can only be created on a shuttle loom. A projectile loom makes wider fabric quicker, but the ends of the fabric must be stitched closed. Initially, selvedge indicated quality in the manufacturing process and it still does. However, some brands have utilized fake selvedge or prioritized selvedge appearance over quality materials and sound construction processes, which brings us to our final point.


Selvedge alone doesn't encompass all aspects of denim quality. Nevertheless, it does imply a certain level of effort towards quality, especially when combined with Japanese production, which is often synonymous with high quality. But at the end of the day, we don't wear fabric bolts. We wear finished product. The same, if not more attention to detail must be taken when if comes to product construction.

The machines used to cut and sew the fabric as well as the thread used to hold the pieces together truly matter when it comes to producing a high-quality garment. Good fabric and bad construction makes bad product. Bad fabric and good construction makes bad product. Both elements must come together to produce a truly great garment.

So where does AW stand in all of this? Do we tick all the boxes? That's an unequivocal yes. Here's how we create our products from start to finish.

1. **Premium Cotton Selection**: We meticulously choose the finest organic cotton for our jeans. The quality of the cotton serves as the foundation for the entire process.

2. **Crafted Yarn Spinning**: Our cotton undergoes ring spinning, a traditional method that results in a softer, stronger yarn. This process, combined with rope dyeing using organic natural indigo, adds to the uniqueness of our fabrics. Keep in mind that the specific spinning and dyeing techniques can differ between mills, resulting in a remarkable variety of fabrics.

3. **Artful Dyeing**: The yarns are dyed with organic natural indigo, contributing to the rich hues and authentic character of our denim. This step plays a crucial role in achieving the desired color and fading effects.

4. **Intricate Weaving**: Our fabrics are woven using both modern and vintage shuttle looms. This choice impacts the fabric's texture and appearance, ensuring that each piece has its own distinct charm.

5. **Solid Construction**. Lastly, quality extends beyond the production of the fabric . All of our season 1 styles are crafted with organic cotton sourced from Japan. The fabrics are then transported to state-of-the-art cut & sew factories in China. These facilities employ cutting-edge German and Japanese machinery, strong thread & quality trims to meticulously construct the final products. Our unique wash houses in these factories are responsible for the exceptional finishes showcased in the Ripe & Antique styles. 
If you are someone who appreciates high-quality jeans, and you are looking for a handsome, modern cut, AW has a style for you!

-Andre Williams 

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