Loren Cronk, designer and fabricator of BLKSMTH jeans
Photo Credit: Anna Schori
BLKSMTH – New York
An old workwear brand that is modern. Jeans designed and made in the U.S.A.
Designing for Levi Strauss must have been incredible for your understanding of denim history.
My time at Levi was vital to learning the history of denim. Levi is the oldest American denim brand. The archive department was unbelievable, you could call them up and say, “hey, I want to see navy denim outfits from WW2” and the next day, you’d have a room full of them ––really an amazing experience. And something most people don’t know but the 60’s and 70’s were crazy for Levi. They did every crazy-ass thing you can think of. Psychedelic colors, craziest bell-bottoms you’ll ever see, they even did a line for farmers with vegetables on the labels and back pocket tabs. Yeah that’s right, so imagine a carrot on the back pocket tab, they did it. BADASS!
In your branding and styling, it’s interesting to see your contemporary emphasis on craft production while giving a nod to utility, to workwear, to a time when Black Smiths were notable. That said, how do you think of denim as apart of contemporary urban life?
I really think of BLKSMTH as an old workwear brand that is modern. That’s my mindset when designing into it. I just strive to make it work today with styling details and fit. On the street, I love how people wear denim. They wear it every which way they can, super washed and ripped up, patched, dark, dark worn, dark clean, skinny, baggy, slim. It’s a contemporary uniform for us and it changes over time. You either fix it or buy a new one or save it for later, depending on your preference.
Our Sugarcube customers are curious about your approach to BLKSMTH jean construction. From the double lined back pockets, double side seams, to the hidden top button, there is a certain aesthetic you are presenting. Please tell us about some of your inspirations and experiences with product development.
I spent a long time putting the details of this jean together. From the front pocket shapes, J-stitch shapes, waistband sizes, to the back pocket mock-ups, my main focus was creating a historic and classic jean, but at the same time a little different. Inspired by 1940’s workwear, I incorporated a covered button detail in my design, loving how it dresses up the front of the jean.
And the back pocket connected to the side seam, how did that design feature evolve?
The back pocket was a great evolution. I was first trying to get each pocket to come out of each corresponding side seam. This spaced the pockets too far apart from each other in terms of function and aesthetics. So I added an extra side panel down each leg to get the pockets placed in the correct spot. In classic workwear construction I must say I’ve always loved the 1/4″ double needle felled outseam. The pocket side of the panel shows off the fell seam while the other side uses a true “busted” seam, emphasizing the selvedge edge as a traditional detail. With this extra panel I was able to do both, and I’m always happy when I can add a few extra seams!
What happened during the back pocket mock-up stage of development? I think this will show the degree of problem solving needed in producing quality jeans.
When mocking up the back pocket I was messing around with seaming details. Playing with seams on a mixed cross grain and straight grain, adding some top stitching while other mock-ups had seams towards the bottom of the pocket, then middle, and one finally towards the top. Eventually I found exactly what I was looking for. I was able to fold and press the top edge while running a second layer of fabric down the entire back pocket. So not only did I get this really nice subtle back pocket style, it’s also double lined. Traditionally, added to the pocket is a small deco stitch, but I added this detail on the yoke. The jean over time, when worn down with wear and washings, reveals that detail.
I wanted to get back to the idea of when denim was first used in workwear. It was lighter weight and more comfortable to wear than say 14 oz raw denim. I’m using 11-¾ oz denim from Cone “White Oak” in North Carolina. It’s not too heavy and not too light for “Raw” or unwashed jeans. The break-in period is a day. Currently I’m developing jeans with ’left hand twill’ denim, which will make it much softer. Anyway, I can keep going but my Advil Pm is kicking in. There’s a few more design details I’ll just keep quite about and hope the wearer notices and enjoys.
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