May 26, 2017 | By Samuel Trotman
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Independent denim brand Red Cloud is one of China’s first premium selvedge denim brands and is kickstarting a new culture of raw denim in the Far East. Starting out in Shenyang in mainland China, the brand recently opened its second store in Hong Kong. WGSN correspondent Anupreet Bhui stopped by the new space to speak with the store owner Wan.
Hidden deep, inside the bylanes of Kwun Tong, the industrial district of Hong Kong is Red Cloud & Co. Denim Store. Since its opening last year, the store is fast becoming a must visit destination for all denim lovers who value high end premium selvedge raw denim.
While “Made in China” raw denim will have many denim enthusiasts shaking their heads, Red Cloud is one of a small number of denim brands in mainland China producing top-notch jeans made from equally high-quality denim. This Shenyang-based company produces jeans and other workwear items using the same vintage machinery employed in many better-known brand factories, including the illustrious Union Special.
The first thing that strikes you upon entering the shop is its old world charm garnished heavily with refreshing vintage interiors done up in a typical retro Hong Kong flavor that speaks out through its ceiling fan, authentic shop signage and hand picked furniture classics. The shop is itself a labor of love by its owner Wan, who has hand build most of its fixtures and curated vintage furniture from all over Hong Kong and China. Wan is a good friend of Red Cloud founder Raymond and has helped him develop the business in Hong Kong as the sole distributer of Red Cloud & Co. With exclusive product the shop enjoys an ever increasing fan following amongst the local denim connoisseurs. Here we speak to Wan about the shop, his passion for denim and all things vintage and handcrafted.
Red Cloud & Co. Jeans is becoming increasingly known among the denim circles as being the pioneer premium selvedge denim jeans brand “made in China”. Could you throw more light about the brand and its inception?
Red Cloud & Co.’s journey started in 2007 in China by Raymond, whose passion and love for vintage machines and authentic workwear clothing brought about the origins of this brand.
While selvedge denim is being easily produced in China, Red Cloud & Co. prides itself in being the only high quality premium raw denim jeans and workwear brand out of China.
Where is Red Cloud & Co. manufactured in China? Could you share more about the fabric used and any special machinery and process employed?
Red Cloud & Co. is based in the northern east part of mainland China in the industrial district called Shenyang. The fabrics are made from long stapled 100% Turpan cotton from Xinjiang Province, held in the same high regard as its Texan or Zimbabwe counterparts. Founder Raymond is passionate about vintage machinery and has employed high quality stitching machines including the Union Special.
All natural indigo is used as final dip during fabric dyeing process resulting in its high quality and special rich shade.
What were your thoughts behind getting the Red Cloud & Co. brand into Hong Kong? Do you still see premium denim as a niche market here amongst the consumers?
Workwear history and its clothing style has always fascinated me. To me Nigel Cabourn’s style clearly reflects his British roots in gentlemen’s apparel & workwear. Red Cloud & Co. with its high quality denim and workwear styles is fast breaking the age old notion of sub quality Chinese products.
When I initially came to know about Red Cloud & Co. and its founder Raymond, I found him to be super passionate and focused towards denim.I took a trip to visit him all the way to Shenyang and made a proposal to sell this brand in Hong Kong. Raymond had already rejected some previous offers from here, but luckily he saw my passion and entrusted me to start.
Hong Kong consumer market is niche but is increasingly beginning to value premium raw denim jeans and are becoming more open to exploring high quality products from around the world.
We hear that all the interior, fixtures and fittings are hand done by you and the vintage furniture is all a part of your collection collected from Hong Kong & all over China. Do you want to share your passion behind this?
I really love working with my hands, but not via mouse or keyboard.I just feel that anything crafted by hands is so humble and fascinating . I love woodworking. I gathered together various icons reflecting the simple working class lifestyle of the times we grew up in. My local customers really come here and say that this place transports them back in time to the good old happy days. The shop sign here is an actual façade I collected from a retired couple who were running a barber shop for more than 50 years. I used to go there to enjoy traditional wet shaving, many of us went to these kind of places since we were kids back then.
You recently bought union special sewing machine and use it for alteration jobs for your customers. You are also hand dyeing indigo yarns and use that for mending functions. How are the customers responding to these customization services?
At present most of my customers are men. In Hong Kong, the consumers like to engage themselves with the story of the product they are purchasing and I always mention it to them that they are buying the raw denim, which is the original denim from where the washed and faded denims they are more familiar with originate. We discuss about washes and wearing habits and they come back to me with their well worn denims, ready for some mending . The customers here really value authenticity and union special alterations add to it.
What is your current favorite product from the line ?
The core iconic jeans 424H is one of my personal favorite. Fabric is 14.5 oz and a mix of cotton and hemp. I have been wearing this pair for over a year and am really enjoying to see my life emerging through the fade patterns. All 424s carry the famous Wu Kong arcuate on its back pockets , which is actually symbolic head crown originating from the very popular Chinese Myth – Sun Wu Kong or the Monkey King.
How do you see the future of Red Cloud? Do you see more brands like these coming up?
At present there are a number of denim brands that are coming out in the market which may be selvedge and more expensive. However I really feel that for the consumer who truly understands high quality and authenticity, will continue to value Red Cloud & Co. Over these years, we are slowly but steadily building up our loyalist base who truly understand the difference. I am very optimistic about the future.
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