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It's a Guy Thing

Designer Interview Series: Fidelity Denim


This week we sat down with the LA & Vancouver-based company: Fidelity Denim to find out about the origins of the brand, as well as the brand's future direction. We had the opportunity to speak with founder and CEO: Jason Trotzuk, who took some time out of his hectic schedule to give us some insight on his brand:


Do you remember when you decided to devote your professional career to denim? What was the inspiration?


Jason: I actually devoted my life to denim really early on in my 20s after being inspired by what I was seeing in the Rock’n’Roll era.  But, it wasn't until the late 90’s, when I met David [Goldman] for the first time and he first started out with his Boys’Co stores [that carried] Diesel and Big Star, that [I got really inspired to start a career in denim]. Then, there was a while after that when I didn’t really get a chance to work with denim because I didn’t think that denim was actually an option for me. So I put that on hold, and did other [projects] like a board short line.

It wasn’t actually until the late 90s/early 2000s when I started getting into denim.  I started making my own collection of jeans up in Vancouver, believe it or not, under a line called Dish, which I started in my basement!  Some of the things that I realized about denim is that denim is very detailed; something that you really have to engrain and stretch yourself.  It's not something that you can just design off the cuff.  You really have to immerse yourself in it. It's like running a vineyard. You have to know what the grapes are, you have to know the time of the year, you have to know what time to pick them, how to squeeze them and how to turn them. There is so much in denim that you have to know. I’ve been into it heavily for about 25 years, but I kind of knew in the early 2000’s that denim was the one thing that nobody could knock off, or take away, or recreate, so I knew I would devote my time to making jeans.


Jason Trotzuk wearing Fidelity Jeans and a Workshop Tri-blend T-shirt

Creating men’s and women’s jeans are two completely different design processes. What were the biggest obstacles and differences faced when entering the men’s market in 2009?


Answer: The biggest challenge that I faced when entering the men’s jeans market was really understanding the men’s market itself because women are very fit conscious. The fabric has to be soft, the fits have to be just right, and the styling is way more in-depth: from skinnies, to boot, to flares, to all these different occasions. Menswear is not so complex as far as the fits and the styling goes. There are 3-4 fits your need to know for men’s [jeans], but my biggest challenge was: how do I actually enter the men’s denim world and change the game?  How do I actually make a difference?  I kind of had to figure out what my parameters were. What’s going to set me apart? You can’t come into men’s denim and be not as good or almost as good as everybody else. In fact, you need to be better than everybody else in order to make any sort of impact or difference. So, I identified that the fit of a men’s jean was probably something that I could redefine and reintroduce as far as what men are currently wearing. The other thing that I realized that's important is the fabrication: what men are wearing and what men would probably be looking to get into. So I kind of changed the men's [denim] business on two fronts: I changed it on fit and fabrication.


Fidelity Denim acknowledges and understands the differences between men's and women's denim


One of our favourite features of the Fidelity denim is the hand of the fabric. What kind of process did you go through to find the perfect weight/hand of the custom Fidelity denim fabric? Were there a lot of samples made?


Answer: Oh yeah!  There were tons of samples: I’ll sometimes review 50 samples of different types of denim from around the world, like Japan and Italy and all the best guys, and sometimes I wont even choose anything.  Sometimes I might choose one or two, but I will go back to them and say “hey look I need this fixed” or “I need something different” or “I need something adjusted”. So, it really takes me months and months of diligent tweaking to get something that is unique and different that I feel worthy of introducing to a men’s body. So I sample a lot, but I choose very few. They’re usually all custom made for me.  I usually only use an Italian mill that really can do a good job for me.  It’s trial and error. The weights [of the denim] all vary. They are all different because its like members of a hockey team; you have your defence, forward, and your center.  Every denim is different and every denim has a reason for why it is in a line.


Do you think the age of skinny jeans is nearing its end or will it stick around for longer?


I don’t think its ever going to go away, actually. I think we still have at least 4-5 more years before men really start to pick it up and really start to get into it and adopt it into their lifestyle.  Then, I think it’ll take another 10 years before it even becomes somewhat mainstream.


 Torino: Fidelity's comfortable take on the classic skinny jean


What silhouettes/styles do you think will be the next big denim trend?


I think that one of the silhouettes that will become more and more relevant and important will be this whole, what I like to call, “almost relaxed but yet tapered” fit that we will see in certain younger brands, and see it become accepted by the younger customer in general.


We’ve seen a very sportswear inspired period in fashion, including a large amount of brands offering cuffed joggers in chino and denim fabrics. Do you have any plans to venture over into that silhouette?


Yes absolutely, like every brands dream, we aspire to have more than just the denim category in our line because we feel like we know who our Fidelity customer is, and we’d like to dress them from head to toe. So our desire to be a multi-line brand would come out of the need to help a customer that currently cannot find certain types of product categories that he wants to wear in the marketplace, and Fidelity would be able to give them that. You can buy chinos and joggers and all that stuff at Zara and H&M.  That’s just for everyday, but we're looking to change that a bit with a different approach to the men’s sportswear category, which I can’t get into right now, but it’ll be a little bit more of a fresher, Rock’n’Roll, casual, dressy approach.


So we can expect something like that from Fidelity Jeans in the near future?


Yes, definitely.


We all know the difference a high quality pair of jeans can make, but for those readers who are looking to jump into the higher end jean game, what would be the biggest selling point to invest in a pair of high-end jeans such as Fidelity Denim?


It comes back to the old adage that “you get what you pay for” and that really rings true on all levels of consumerism. If you go out and buy a $50 pair of jeans, you’re going to get a product where the denim is not combed cotton, or ring spun, or mercerized. It's probably of lesser quality, and the colour hue and saturation of the indigo is not as strong. It won’t hold its shape, and it bags out. The character does not look authentic, it looks cheap and almost pyjama-like.  It just looks cheap.

Another thing is: for example, as I’m talking to you, I got up this morning, dropped my kids off at school, I went to work, I drove to the airport, hopped on a plane, I’m doing a seminar in Portland tomorrow, then I’m going to hop on another plane. I’m going to have one pair of jeans that I’m wearing the whole time that will carry me through that type of lifestyle.  It will make me look fabulous and hold up, yet be comfortable when I'm sitting on a plane and crossing my legs, while I’m squished in-between two people.

The comfort and clean simplicity of Fidelity Denim means that 1 pair can be versatile for many occasions.

So you generally get what you pay for. You get better quality, you get better fit. I could definitely go into making a cheaper jean with a different brand, but then I have to compete for volume, lower prices, I have to cut corners and use cheaper stitching.  I have to use cheaper washing and I can’t use all the same sort of natural enzymes [in the indigo dye].  So, I could do all that, but I choose to make more premium jeans as a designer, especially when designing denim. It’s kind of like being a wine maker. You want the luxury to be able to use the best grapes, have the best soil and the best sunshine available to you. You don’t want to try and make wine in the Antarctic; you don’t want to have that kind of compromise when you’re trying to be an artisan making wine.

I know your question is premium vs non-premium, but denim is the only article of clothing that you might have 30 pairs of jeans, but only wear 3.  You only really have three favourites. But the other 27, you really can’t let go of for whatever reason, because there’s a story behind the jean. You wore it to Lollapalooza and you remember that denim for a time in your life, and sometimes you have that connection with denim that you can’t part with. I think that the experience you get from premium denim is kind of like flying first class. It’s really hard to go back to coach.  Once you’ve worn a really nice pair of Fidelity’s that have a great stretch, look good, you get compliments on, and fit in all the right places, you know it's just a better experience.


So we’ve heard that you are into playing music and guitars.  Does that ever inspire your design process in the company?


Absolutely, I just watched a great documentary on the Rolling Stones called “Crossfire Hurricane” which shows them all throughout the 60s and 70s, and they wear denim throughout the whole thing. You can see all the different points in denim.  You can see Keith Richards rocking on stage playing Jumpin Jack Flash and he’s wearing jeans. Jeans are the only iconic article of clothing that can stand seven decades, and we’re responsible for kind of a musical attribute influence to denim, whether it be the Ramones, or Eagles, or the Stones, Led Zeppelin, or Nirvana.   You name it, every band kind of has attachments or has had a connection to wearing blue jeans, which I think is the clothing of the people.

Building denim and building guitars are kind of, believe it or not, the same thing. I have a lot of guitars and, believe it or not, every single one sounds different from the other.  [That's] because each guitar is based from a certain piece of wood and factory, whether it was hot or humid or dry or just the residence of the piece of wood. The pick-ups and hardware, all the components, and the way its been aged all give [each guitar] its own unique sound.


Jason Trotzuk's guitar collection: each one unique, just like each pair of Fidelity jeans

Denim is kind of the same way. Sure I’ll mass-produce one denim and make like 500 pieces, but each one is unique.  No two pairs of jeans will ever fit the same. Even when you go into a store and you try three pairs on that are the same size, they will all fit differently. Sometimes, when you have that favourite pair of jeans that you just love, it's kind of one of those moments of rarity where everything worked at the factory that day, and that pair of jeans happens to be for you.  And, now you’re attached to them.


How important is it to follow trends?


I think that trends are very important. Fidelity has a motto: “Always consistent, but always fresh”.  You need to be consistent, so that your customer will depend on you to be a brand that they can go to, and be able to get a great fitting pair of jeans every time.  And, you know it's going to hold up. But that is not to be mistaken for always fresh. Always fresh means that once you have a pair of Fidelity denim that you love, you should be able to go back and buy the same pair, but you should also be able find something new and fresh. You have to be careful with what the trend is. They always say trend is your friend, but trend can be the enemy if you get too far into it. You can get yourself too immersed into a trend that is not timeless. You always have to look at a trend and figure out its longevity.  That’s why when I look at the “skinny” I think of it as a timeless piece. It was worn in the 60s, in the 70s, and in the 80s. It’s a timeless piece that comes back again and again. That’s why I think the current shift towards the “skinny” is going to be a long one because it’s a timeless trend.

Editor's note: Jason has recently moved to LA with his family and set up an LA office to be closer to his denim manufacturing facilities.  

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