For the several individuals who clicked this post expecting the “Yellow Submarine”, I’m sorry to disappoint that this isn’t about Ringo Starr! It is of course about a very unique individual named Beatle, who is a creative powerhouse to be reckoned with in the denim industry.
The name Beatle has been synonymous with so many things these days. Unfortunately, not many people actually know the person behind the moniker. She’s a tremendously warm and ambitious individual, that has rooted herself in the denim industry as an independent. Since her “Volume One” jeans has been recently put to production, I thought I’d get in touch with her to find out her story, her inspirations, and the essence behind the ByBeatle brand. The following is the transcript of our casual conversation.
Saintkeat = SK
Beatle = BT
SK: I hear you’re from Chemnitz, Germany. I’ve only been to the capital of Saxony, Dresden, it had beautiful tapestry. How was it like growing up in a country that’s been (from what I’ve read) a center of textile production and trade since the medieval times? Surely denim wasn’t hard to find?
BT: It’s very interesting that you mention Chemnitz and it’s reference to textile industry – which is true but sadly enough most evidence of the textile industry were long gone by the time I grew up. The town was part of the Russian sector after world war 2 so basically I grew up in GDR – and the city´s textile suppliers were long gone. And finding denim was seriously hard. Denim and the entire jeans culture were actually frowned upon – as the socialist government didn’t approve of anything Rock´N roll or influenced by Western and capitalist systems. There was only one brand of jeans in GDR – a brand called Boxer, which will be quite interesting to Google. So anyways, my first pair of jeans that made me feel really happy were a pair of hand-down Wrangler, left hand twill, 11oz. I got those in a package from West Germany and I think I wore them for about 2 years – so yes, when I was about 13 I was rocking “ankle freeze style”.
SK: Oh wow I had no idea! How about the old button factories? Are they gone as well?
BT: Yes…I’ve always thought how magical would it be if someone were to actually try and revive the lost industry – but with all of the machines gone and most of the industrial sites being converted into apartments I guess that will remain a dream …sad but it feels like cheap labor and maximum profit control craftsmanship and Chemnitz being a historical center for textile industry will forever remain history.
SK: That is very sad news. How was everyone dressed there? Surely fashion bore heavy military influence?
BT: Seriously ? I’m laughing my head off…Fashion in GDR was literally non existing. Never mind – there are always rebels who try to look different and wear something unique – but you had to sew or dye or fabricate garments yourself. I think the most outgoing people in terms of style were the “punks”, young people listening to Rock & Pop icons of the 80’s, sporting Mohawks in bright colors and wearing ripped jeans that were mostly fake Levis bought at markets in the Czech Republic or Hungary.
The colors of my childhood were gray …everything was very uniform looking.
I think even when I attempted to look very cool in the mid 80’s and being 16 it would be regarded as an epic fail on Superfuture …lol.
SK: Hahahaha!! It sounds like a very creative environment though.
So you moved out from Chemnitz and where did you move to?
BT: I actually only moved to Leipzig during studying – moved back to Chemnitz, started working for a local TV channel – became a freelance TV producer and not until last year in February did I move for good and am since living in the UK.
SK: Interesting that you were working in the media industry rather than the fashion industry, considering your interests!
BT: I think clothing has always been an interest of mine – and in a way – working in an environment where you meet new people and see different things every day has just added to the curiosity.
SK: That is true, working with them you must have seen a lot of fashion forward people I’m sure!
Your popularity on SuperFuture is akin to super stardom, how did you first come across the forum and what do you attribute to your rise to SuperMod status?
BT: I think I’ve been introduced to SuperFuture via denimdestroyedmylife, a dear friend of mine from Philadelphia. Like a lot of denim heads one of my first pairs of raw japanese selvage denim was a pair of Nudies – from there I discovered MyNudies.com – met ddml and started reading SuperDenim. I was simply overwhelmed by the knowledge and amount of information out there – and that was about 7-8 years ago. I think SuperDenim sealed the entire Japanese denim life style to me.
And as far as being SuperMods today – I think it all comes down to a level of dedication and the ability to connect. I’ve loved the days when SuperFuture started becoming way more than an internet based forum, the days when it really started connecting people. I think it was shortly after organizing the first world wide denim contest – supported by Samurai – that Cheapmothafucka (that was his handle at the time, lol) and I approached Gordon from Blue in Green, NYC , and started the Dirtydozen tour – 13 people, one pair of jeans – going from one person to the next. Gordon and Evisu organized a launch party – we all met in New York City – and it was just fabulous meeting all these people in real life, talking denim over a couple of beers – brilliant. And from there all the sudden there were tons of contests, tours and legendary meet ups and parties. If I dare say – I am sure all those denim heads who ventured to Selfedge SFO or the first Iron Heart party in Gosport had the time of their life.
Oh yes, and it was Haptronic who just all the sudden looked at me and said something like – Beats – would you like to moderate SuperDenim? I think that was about 2 or 3 years ago, hard to keep tabs as time seems to be flying by faster every day….
SK: I’ve seen Cheap around! He’s all over Sufu!
Your start to the denim culture is not dissimilar to mine in fact!
Are you saying that Sufu started the denim contest trend?
BT: I think a lot of people start out like this – coming across a garment that intrigues and sparks an interest for more …and yes, I think we came across an article in Lightning – it was 3 people – a salesman, a stockist and some guy working in an office, who were all wearing the same jeans over a certain amount of time and comparing evolution and stuff. That started a conversation – I said let’s do this – contacted some brands and got a response from Samurai who said they’d be happy for us to “field test” a new denim and cut they were just about to release – the 15oz Texas Cotton on the S0500XX – and that’s what we did. Yes, SuFu and SuperDenim started worldwide denim contests.
SK: Interesting. Denim contests have really taken off in a big way!
I’ve heard you’re not keen on social media sites, I’ve always thought of them as another great tool for marketing. Why do you stray from them but support forums instead?
BT: LOL, I guess not remembering your Facebook account or password says it all…lol…I like twitter – think I’ve opened an account pretty much as soon as it started – I like the idea of just posting something that you find important or something you just want to laugh about – it doesn’t create a huge bubble and it doesn’t create all the twists that come along with the Facebook “friend” status…I simply prefer a forum based community – where people talk about a product or an experience and share information. There is something very unique about SuperFuture – and there’s always something to learn or something that inspires. I find that very refreshing.
SK: I use them all actually! I’d say they all have their pros and cons, but forums always have a special place in my heart as well, particularly SuperFuture.
You worked with Iron Heart on a highly successful project which is the Beatle Buster cut (as well as the Mega Beatle Buster), it’s becoming quite the favourite among the fans. Is there a story to that? Perhaps you could start with how Iron Heart approached you?
BT: There’s always a story…lol. I first stumbled across the Iron Heart UK in 2008- again , I don’t really keep tabs on dates, so yes, must have been roughly 4 years ago. It was still a very small community – and there was a lot of sanforized versus non sanforized stuff going on…the thing that got me really interested was the craftsmanship that it takes to create garments that are actually heavy enough to tow a car! I’ve always been a huge fan of construction and craftsmanship. I was very lucky and also unbelievably excited when Iron Heart UK agreed to take a design pitch into consideration – and the day that the first sample of a pair of Beatle Busters arrived was one of the most incredibly denim moments at the time.
SK: Sounds like you approached them actually, is that the case?
SK: As I say, “If you don’t ask, you’ll never receive”. Good on you!
Another project that’s seeing great success now is your project with Megatron on the Heavy Weight Denim Championship Round 2. Did you think he was mental when the competition he proposed was of this magnitude?
BT: Not at all…lol. The world of Japanese selvage denim and all the garments that come along with it is a life style. It is created by very unique and special people. People that are different. People that care about the origin of what they are wearing every day and the things they surround themselves with. So when Gavin did send me a pm asking what I thought about having a contest that is featuring heavy denim – regardless of brand I said sure, why not – start a thread and see what people think.
And it’s obvious that people love it. I think the Heavyweight Denim Championship Round 2 currently has 270 competitors from all over the world – including a huge amount of supporters and retailers and brands that sponsor the biggest denim get together in terms of wear and evolution.
SK: Indeed! We’re one of them!
BT: And I’m very happy about that!
SK: What made you start the T-shirt label DoubleXX with Jimmy Crow?
BT: I met Jimmy and I think we clicked right away. He’s become such a dear friend of mine – and DoubleXX just happened very naturally. I thought it would be great to have some seasonal t shirts – mostly cause I am a huge fan of very simple looks – and I really believe there is nothing better than wearing your favourite pair of jeans with a t shirt in summer – and Jimmy is an absolute expert in the world of graphic design and the art of silk screen printing – and we decided to create some small runs of screen printed tees that are our personal outlet for creative moments and things that make us smile we called it DoubleXX. I am still smiling when I think about one of our first slogans “It’s not about me – it’s about the Jeans”. The tees we make are happy and mostly related to denim. Seriously, everyone who loves denim should own a DoubleXX Tee, craftsmanship made in the US.
SK: You’ve got quite a wide portfolio for an “independent contractor”. Now you’ve even started your own denim label! Tell us the story that led you to the ByBeatle label.
BT: I’ve always been more than just interested in the process of making, the art of sewing and the process of milling. The idea that one day I would start my own brand was in the back of my mind for quite some time. I wanted to start my own brand – and end of 2012 the timing just felt right and I finally started pursuing it. The biggest challenge was finding a garment factory. Let me put it like this – when I started getting involved in SuperFuture – buying Japanese selvage jeans was almost as difficult as scoring illegal substances. You needed a proxy, or you bought them used from another SuFu member. you were never quite sure if the size was going to be perfect. Today – there’s a variety of retailers who are successfully importing and distributing Japanese brands and products. I wanted to take the next step and actually put my mark on garments – taking it from cradle to grave, visiting the mills, meeting the textile suppliers – picking the fabric and every single button. Being in charge or involved in every step and of every stitch and having an influence on the actual garment in terms of fit and cut is what matters to me.
So this is how ByBeatle started – a lot of little but important steps leading all the way to booking a flight to Japan and meeting a garment maker in the heart of Kojima – picking a denim that is loomed right in the Okayama prefecture. That part of the adventure was a huge challenge – it all reads easy on paper – but there are so many anxious and nerve wrecking moments along the way that receiving the sample jeans actually lifted a huge weight off of my shoulders. The first pair of jeans – 100% ByBeatle – and 100% crafted in Japan – that was my goal and yes, I am seriously happy and in a very humble way I am also very proud to have accomplished that …Volume One of ByBeatle – Jawns & More Made in Japan …a serious moment in my life.
SK: That must have taken either several trips or 1 long extended trip to get it all done right! Why did you choose this particular mill in Kojima, Okayama?
BT: It was a very compact trip…Flying to Tokyo – getting the Shinkansen (Bullet Train) into Okayama – checking into a hotel and meeting Hajime-san – owner of TCB in Kojima the next morning. Every garment maker is linked to certain textile suppliers and mostly gets the specific denim delivered through the brand directly. I mentioned to the garment factory that I would like to hand pick the denim myself – and he was kind enough to get in touch with one of the mills that is a family run business under supervision of Allblue.inc and organized for me to meet and visit the mill. Seeing the shuttle looms with my own eyes – and actually hearing the magic happen was truly overwhelming.
So yes – from there it took another trip to the textile supplier – which is where I actually decided on the specific denim used for Volume One. I wanted something that weighs in at about 17-18oz , with a lot of character and a very dark indigo. I believe that this weight is pretty much perfect for every season- and since it’s rope dyed it should allow for some beautiful evolution….wabi sabi…but yes, one other factor was using a denim that has never before been used – and as a matter of fact there wasn’t even a wash sample yet. So the denim is as unique and as special as it gets.
SK: Very inspiring stuff. I look forward to a similar trip of my own some day.
This certainly explains a lot on the process and effort involved into the making of this particular pair of jeans.
Judging by the model name “Volume One”, denim heads around the world can look forward to several other “Volumes” to come?
BT: Absolutely! I would have never started and invested time and money into something that I don’t truly believe in. I am already excited about Volume 2 – and that will present an even bigger challenge. I’m not giving away too much, but the plan is to release a seriously wild garment that isn’t worn on legs by the end of 2013. It will be a little bit like a X’mas surprise..
For further details check out the preorder on Rivet and Hide .