Because who doesn’t enjoy watching a cute butt prance around the house in raw selvedge denim?
by Tamsyn Bouwer
Very few things (if any) are sexier on a guy than a pair of denims. And we totes love the global movement towards more sustainable practices around this classic piece of fashion – here’s hoping it continues to spread!
So, you can just imagine our elation when online retailer Spree.co.za contacted us to announce the launch of a new sustainable denim range for men.
“Sustainable fashion is a big part of growing design philosophy worldwide, which is why we’re launching a premium quality, raw denim product skilfully crafted in Cape Town!” Spree.co.za tells us.
The brand is Real + Simple, and you can purchase the product right here.
Denim to write your story on
I just had to chat to the people behind Real + Simple, and not long after I’m sitting at a sidewalk table in Claremont sipping my cappuccino when Brad Chonlong smiles as he comes over to join me. Clad almost head to toe in raw denim like a younger, modern day Steve McQueen, Brad apologises for being so fashionably late (of course!), but his 10-month old baby daughter at home holds very little regard for his appointment times.
I compliment this proud new father on his outfit, and he says, “Oh this, yeah I’m starting to break this one in now.”
He shows me close-up how the raw denim was still very even, like a charcoal-like indigo all over.
“When you buy a new pair of these, it looks just the same as everyone else’s, because there’s no washing and no treatments: it’s just a pair of jeans like they used to make them back in the 1900s. But the more you wear it, the more you personalise it.
“See here,” he shows me the faintly fading patches of fabric on his knees, “it develops character as you move and live in it. It wears where you put the most stress on it.
“Guys are always searching for their next favourite pair of jeans, and most of them love this because it’s like having a quality denim to write your own story on.”
There’s an old pair of his hanging inside the Blackwood Brothers store in Shortmarket Street that’s a “fashion documentary” of the last four years of his life. I’m supposed to go and check them out when I get a chance.
A sustainable footprint
Real and Simple is made up of Brad Conlong and Steven Jossel and has been trading for just over a year now.
“We wanted to show that South Africa can produce jeans that can rival the best in the world,” he explains.
Raw denim is a far more sustainable form of this popular fashion: as the name suggests, it’s really raw (untreated) denim, meaning it hasn’t gone through any dying or pre-wash processes. So, less chemicals and a reduced carbon footprint = cool jeans.
“Real + Simple is an artisanal product really; cut, made and machined right here in Cape Town. For us, the big sustainability factor is in providing jobs and opportunities locally,” Brad adds.
Empowering the local industry
“When the local clothing industry began folding, as most retailers started sourcing offshore and especially in China and such, we had factories closing down and amazingly skilled people losing their jobs, and that’s worrying,” Brad explains.
“So we use a local factory in Lansdowne. We don’t own it, yet, but we do use two very talented ladies at the factory, each with over 20 years experience in denim making, to make our denims.”
Apart from the factory, Real + Simple has invested in two more local seamstresses in training, financially assisting them in extending their homes to create mini workshops at home. From here, these women run their own separate clothing manufacturing businesses, while receiving training from Real + Simple and in turn sewing small odds and ends for the company.
“She’s getting quite good,” Brad remarks about one of these women, “and we’re not comfortable with her working on our main product line just yet, but give it a year and we’ll probably be having a different conversation.
“But, at the end of the day, the sustainability aspect is just our story and our ethos, where we come from and how we do things: Real + Simple. What ultimately makes most guys buy our product is the fact that they are really cool jeans, a premium quality product,” Brad beams.
Well, Real + Simple checked all the boxes for me, and I’ll definitely be keeping an eye on them for the future, and wished Brad all the best with their product being available online with Spree.co.za.
But as we said goodbye, I stopped him quickly and asked whether Real + Simple would start producing ladies’ jeans anytime soon.
He smiled as he turned, leaving me with a suave nod and saying: “Just watch this space.”
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