Exclusive Interview: Jack/ Knife

We’re pretty excited for our San Francisco denim buddies Jack Knife. Since coming on the scene in December 2011, the brand has expanded to become a well-known name in the world of hand-crafted, made in America denim and recently they unveiled their new studio space and introduced a new member of the growing team called Evan Kinori.

Images thanks to Ulysses Ortega and his photographer buddy Al Lin.

We decided to have a chat with them about how life has changed since our first blog post back in 2012.

We ran our first blog post on you guys nearly two years ago, when you were still a pretty young brand, how has life/work changed since then?

At the risk of sounding hippie-dippie, I’d like to say I believe that the same spirit remains since our last feature on StyleSight, but that an ongoing transformation has certainly helped Jack/Knife to grow over the last two years.

The biggest change would be the addition of Evan Kinori to the team. (as seen above, shot by Ulysses Ortega) He has helped to solidify the brand’s direction and pushed our design, pattern-making and production capabilities. Through countless hours and studio-overnights, (see video below) Evan has made a serious commitment to taking the ethos of Jack/Knife and harnessing our potential to become more efficient makers.

Jack/Knife now also has a more developed story to tell. When we were first featured on StyleSight we cared so much about the quality of materials and construction techniques used, but we hadn’t yet learned exactly how to articulate our story. We consider those early years as our “Prologue” period, and have since developed a yet-to-be-released catalog of products that expresses the first in what will be an ongoing series of “chapters” to our story.

In addition to the collection of goods that will be unveiled this Fall in “Chapter One,” we have taken the time to redesign our website. Our hope is that people will use the site to read about the Jack/Knife story and to learn more about the Prologue and Chapter One. We also feature stories and interests on our blog as well as a section documenting our new studio. With Jack/Knife, the product always comes first, but we believe the story behind the product helps to define our brand and give meaning to our work.

Lastly and perhaps most obviously, our new studio has allowed us the opportunity to breath and spread out resulting in a bit more inspiration and productivity than our old closet of a space.

Where is your new studio and how did you come to move into it?

The new studio is in the Jack London Square area of Oakland. We love it. Now that we are in a more industrial neighborhood we have a bit more peace and quiet to focus on our work.

Jack/Knife • The New Space from Jarod Taber on Vimeo.

Has your team also expanded?

Yes, in addition to Evan coming on board we have curated a  small, hardworking family, and have become quite a tight knit group.

What are your future plans for Jack/ Knife?

In June of this year we started our Owner Made limited release series. One of the biggest points of difference with Jack/Knife in comparison to the “norm” in the industry, is our ability to design, pattern, sample, and manufacture products in our studio. Of course, the turn around times are longer when we make things ourselves as opposed to a factory setting, but we believe it’s important to offer a special line of products that feature details not found in factory production. Whether it’s a special sewing technique, an innovation in pattern-making, or some hands-on feature, like indigo dyed wood buttons – the Owner Made pieces are about putting out something unique and fresh that does not require 6 months of planning. We come up with an idea, pattern it, sew up a few samples, shoot some photos with friends, and shortly thereafter its on our site – it’s a very organic process.

Chapter One, which will be released this fall, is the bigger picture thing for Jack/Knife at the moment. That is the main event that has been in the development stages over the past several months. We’re really striving to make this collection show what we’ve learned from the past, what we’re into now, and what we feel will be everlasting for the future. 

You’ve taken part in a few collaborations, which has been your favorite and why?

Tony and Pete from Tellason are always amazing to work with and are hands down the nicest guys around. Both have taught us so much and have never faulted us for being young and dumb.  They generously opened their doors to collaborate and work with other talented individuals, such as Brian Awitan- who has been a longtime behind-the-scenes-type industry veteran. Right from the jump we were really drawn to the care-free but somehow still productive and generous spirit of Brian, and have since come up with an entire kit that is inspired directly from him. The Awitan Kit should be dropping very soon on our website as another instalment in our more limited Owner-Made series.

How has the San Francisco denim scene changed over the last two years?

On the industry side, the noticeable difference over the last two years is that now I can throw a stone in any direction and hit someone making jeans. All of us at Jack/Knife have been floored to see the surge of interest in learning and participating in the manufacturing side of things. There’s people getting into weaving and dying- which is really exciting to see more of from our generation. The world always needs more young people finding something they love to do and chasing after it!

On the consumer side, everyone is now incredibly educated about the products they buy, much more so than even two years ago. The great news is that more and more accurate and reputable information is becoming readily available. A few years ago the internet was a bit rampant with misinformation in the world of denim.

Over the last 3-4 years, the ‘Made in America’ movement has become a big subject. What are your views on this?

The country of origin for clothes certainly has become as important to consumers as understanding where our produce and food comes from. It’s becoming a defining aspect of our generation to ask more in terms of how, why, where… We appreciate this now commonplace line of questioning, especially since the mainstream has only recently begun to acknowledge the importance of being able to answer them all.

That being said, the origin is far from where the buck stops.  We hope that consumer questioning will continue to challenge also the quality and origin of materials, construction techniques (prices and origins doesn’t always mean the garment was made well), the treatment of laborers, transparency in the manufacturing process, and what is the involvement/support/effect for the community. We’re doing our part by documenting our journey through these stages on our website and through social media.

Do you think that Denim Bruin has had a positive effect on the denim community? Tell us about your involvement in the event this year.

Events and organisations that promote positivity and connectivity in any industry are always very good for the community involved.

We were proud to host DenimBruin events two years in a row and we are very much looking forward to seeing the new brands involved this year.

What’s been good about Denim Bruin for you as a brand? Contacts/ denim friends/ exposure?

I met one of my favourite people in the entire industry at Denim Bruin- Antonio Di Battista, owner of Blue Blanket. I believe he will be in town for DenimBruin again this year and I am looking forward to catching up with him. We consider him a good friend of ours and we are honoured to work with such a seasoned veteran that has so gracefully avoided the flash-in-the-pan style that is so common for clothing companies, especially when it comes to the world of denim.

Thanks guys! Look forward to seeing how amazing Denim Bruin 2014 is going to be, good luck!

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