When Jason Denham set up his DENHAM design studio and showroom at Prinsengracht 495 in 2008, Amsterdam’s metropolitan area’s fashion image turned a decided hue of indigo blue. Today, over 4 years on see’s the realisation of Jason’s dream and expansion of his denim business to the DENHAM House - a monumental canal house that plays home to the heart and soul of his own exclusive and internationally-marketed jeans brand, DENHAM The Jeanmaker.
With Levi’s Vintage Clothing, G-Star and K.O.I. under our belt, DENHAM was next on the list for our Amsterdam denim coverage. Located across two connected buildings at Prinsengracht 493 and 495 in Amsterdam’s boutique 9 Street neighbourhood, the DENHAM House is a true manifestation of the spirit of the DENHAM label. The entire house has been developed by Jason and his creative team; 493 the address of DENHAM headquarters and design studio and 495 DENHAM’s first own-retail presentation. Together the HQ, shop, studio and showrooms create a singular expression of the overall DENHAM brand and unity between design, product and customer.
Upon entering the store, the experience unfolds through a sequence of ‘zones’ with denim itself forming the central heart of the concept. As each zone gives way to the next, new stories are presented and subtle changes in atmosphere can be detected through shifts in material, product display, sound and visuals. In each area of the shop a reverence for the best of tradition is mixed with a fresh contemporary energy… a signature mix of the old with the new.
Beyond a glass door in the store lies DENHAM’s design studio. The interior styling of the reception within the old canal house is rendered in pure white with accents of raw, exposed brickwork. Immediately you are greeted with a clean white contoured reception desk littered with the core values the brand chooses to uphold and work by. Embossed indigo letters read the DENHAM DESIGN: DENIM INTEGRITY philosophy with the brands signature concepts “WORSHIP TRADITION DESTROY CONVENTION” capitalised throughout. This philosophy is echoed throughout the house’s interior with each area channeling a reverence for the best of tradition mixed with a fresh contemporary energy… a signature mix of the old with the new.
Upon walking into Jason’s office you get an immediate sense and feel for his passion and longevity within the denim industry. The veritable denim museum of a workspace with a back view out onto the design studio is lined with denim memorabilia and artifacts that would challenge the most covetable denim connoisseur. The walls are lined with vintage posters and advertisements from Levi’s, Diesel – all brands that have gone before DENHAM and still remain an inspiration for Jason with what they accomplished and what they have achieved.
Amongst these jean souvenirs are humble photos of Jason with some of the key figures in the denim industry like Adriano Goldschmied and Francois Girbaud at the DENHAM stand during the first L.O.C.K. event at Bread & Butter as well as a group shot of Jason with Nigel Cabourn and Pierre Morisset in his office. These are gentleman Jason see’s as setting the pace of the denim landscape he’s works within today and who continue to represent the gold-standard within denim tradition.
Since all this happened Adriano has also gifted Jason with a copy of a legendary artifact from earlier days. Jason had seen a group photo of The Genius Group posted on the wall at one of his Italian development partners. The image features some legendary young faces of Europe’s then burgeoning denim scene with Adriano and Renzo Rosso leading the charge but with the list of luminaries extending much much further. For Jason, these are the denim legends who were responsible in bringing the jeans industry to Europe and who are the people he communicates with and works together today. “Its amazing for jason also to be included in that group and to say that he is the youngster in the group and one of the new denim promises” commented Vivian Holla, Head of Press at DENHAM.
Located at the top-floor, or what is the pinacle of the design house is the infamous DENHAM GARMENT LIBRARY and also home to Design Director, Liam Maher. An outerwear and vintage veteran, Liam puts his philosophy of quality workmanship to practice in all non-denim garments as well as being as is responsible for the Re-Cut items in the DENHAM collection. The collusion of Jason and Liam’s passion of utility tailoring, tradition and function is what gives DENHAM its rugged and progressive handwriting.
Inspired by the utilitarian and functional clothes of Rural Tailors, Maher finds his design direction through the balance between craftsmanship and industrial production. “Its that cutting our way towards the future, while trying to respect, invest and understand the past,” he says.
For Liam, the potential of managing an effective and contemporary balance of these represents a sort of holy grail. He says, “We see ourselves as the current caretakers of the workwear tradition and in doing that we see it as our responsibility not to go backwards, but also not to abandon the progress that those that went before us made either.”
From the shelves of archived military and workwear garments, Liam pulls one of DENHAMS most recent Re-Cut styles for the AW 12 collection; a prototype of the limited-edition Orkney DGL. along with its predecessor, a Swedish Army Winter Coat. He offers precise description of every decision behind every seam, button and functional detail as well as his design process and creative evolution from the original garment. He told us, “We work really hard to follow through on these ideas so that when you’re down in the shop, you can see at least a few combination of new ideas and elements we’ve innovated as well as features that your already familiar with.”
We asked Liam his thoughts on Amsterdam and why he feels the city is so important for DENHAM:
I guess the well crafted answer to that would be one of our marketing terms that the city is flawless. As an American being here for a long 12 years, I look around these streets and see so much cultural history compared to what I would see in America. In Amsterdam you are surrounded by history in a very intimidating way unlike London, Rome and Paris that have this history that gets so romanced and elevated to the point that mortals can’t reach up to the culture around them. The Dutch people and Holland as a society is all really accessible but yet it still has this unbelievable history. On the history side you have things like The Golden Age and the Great Dutch Masters, but on the other hand there’s also the bravery of pursuing modern design that is very vibrant here. Amsterdam is the home of unbelievable architecture and contemporary and industrial design with people like DROOG design group and Rem Koolhaas. So [we] have the mix of old and new design all around us, which really aids my creative process.