TO MAKE THE BEST
JEANS IN THE WORLD.
ONE PAIR AT A TIME.
THE FACTORYTop to bottom, our NYC store is an homage to denim. The space houses a complete jean manufacturing facility, a one-of-a-kind experience to see inside the world of 3x1 jean-making.
[ Scott Morrison ]
3x1 Banks On The $ 1,200 Jeans
Walk into the 3×1 denim shop on Mercer Street any afternoon, and you could be forgiven for mistaking the boutique for a high-class factory.
Along the entire side of the loft space, cosseted as if in a transparent jewel box of denim and string, are white-coated seamstresses and tailors measuring, cutting and sewing—by hand—some of the best denim in the city.
But it’s not just the denim that does the trick here. Many designer brands offer the fine raw denim and chambray that founder Scott Morrison displays in rows of spools along an entire wall of the store. It’s that material plus the way each jean seems to miraculously offer a perfect fit—regardless of your shape–that make 3×1 one of the most coveted brands available.
“Lebron needs a few more pairs,” Morrison, a tall California ex-pat told an assistant as we walked around the showroom recently. Lebron is (who else but) Lebron James, the 6’8’’ Heat guard who is a loyal patron of Morrison’s work and the $1,200+ bespoke service there. Whenever he places an order it comes for the same jean, in multiples.
In fact, the two have more than their fashion sense in common—Morrison is also an athlete, attending University of Washington on an athletic scholarship for golf and playing professionally before moving to New York and founding Paper Denim & Cloth jeans in 1999.
Later, as his obsession with selvedge and raw and Japanese and Turkish denim grew (he does have a semi-obsessive personality—an avid skateboarder, he collects hundreds of vintage and rare boards in a house upstate) he founded Earnest Sewn in 2004. The idea was to embrace the Japanese aesthetic principle of wabi-sabi (beauty in imperfection) and a love of American heritage.
Fast-forward to 2011 and you get 3×1, a name derived from denim’s standard weaving construction, the ’3×1 Right Hand Twill’ and also a reference to Morrison’s third venture following Paper Denim and Earnest Sewn.
“Scott Morrison is designing the blueprint of cool,” says Michael Little, the founder and owner of another well-known downtown haunt, Lost Weekend NYC. “What menswear designers will care about in six months from now is in scraps of paper buried on his desk. He is creating the archetype.”
3×1 specializes in limited-edition, custom made and bespoke jeans: Limited edition pairs ($295-$475) are kept in stock and made in limited quantities of only eight, 12, 16 or 24 pieces – each to be hemmed and finished, with a button and rivets of the customer’s choosing. Custom products ($525-$750) are made to order and include time with a consultant to determine preferences for back pockets, thread and fabric. The Bespoke service (yep, prices start at $1,200 and go up) allows patrons to work individually with Morrison and his pattern-maker to create their own pair of jeans from start to finish.
The company has one physical location—15 Mercer Street—that serves as a 4,000 square-foot retail and gallery space plus a 3,200 square-foot design studio (Morrison hosts fashion week events and skateboard parties there). It’s a big operation: Imagine dozens of people using single-needle sewing machines, hand-painted enamel buttons and custom-made RiRi zippers from Switzerland. The fabric selection consists of more than 186 unique selvedge denim from around the world and more than 240 total varieties of denim, stretch denim and twill.
This fall 3×1 jumped into selling wholesale with full women’s and men’s collections retailing at Barneys, Bergdorf Goodman, Neiman Marcus, Shopbop and Selfridges. Not that the move in any way eliminates 3×1’s birthright in New York City.
“NYC is the world leader when it comes to creating trend,” Morrison says, crediting that edge to its high visibility in the global market and the ability to create and identify trends that change the way others adopt fashion.
Take skinny jeans, he says. The look started in the mid-90s and came from a younger demographic–early adopters with less discretionary income who lived in the Lower East Side, the East Village and Williamsburg. Many young designers, trend forecasters, advertisers, publicists, marketers and nightlife impresarios live in New York, especially in those neighborhoods, so it was only a matter of time before those sartorial changes (slimming silhouettes, the rise of raw denim, and a shift in women’s preference from denim to novelty fabrics and super-stretch leggings) reached a mass audience.
“It’s undeniable that there is a subsequent ripple effect on the fashion and nightlife community and in turn, global trends shift as a result,” Morrison says about the denim scene in NYC. And he expects the trend toward a slim, increasingly tapered fit will continue.
“Selvedge denim and the idea of wearing something in from ‘raw’ became something many men started doing, and most women consumers have started favoring subtle sophistication over obvious brand ID,” he says. “I see a continuation of this in the coming years.”
So where does that leave his little shop down on Mercer? Situated for just about the perfect fit.
Why throw on off-the-rack jeans—no matter how premium—when you can wear a customized pair that is yours and yours alone? That was Scott Morrison’s thinking when he opened 3x1, a 4,000-square-foot loftlike space in south Soho that offers shoppers a customized denim experience from start to finish. The name 3x1 refers to denim’s standard weaving construction, the so-called 3x1 right-hand twill, but at this shop just about everything else is left up to the customer.
3x1’s customizing options break down into three levels. There’s the baseline limited-edition choice, in which, for around $300, one can choose a style on display and customize the buttons and rivets. The jeans will then be hemmed on the spot. For the more exacting shopper, the custom-made selections run north of $500 and include time with a fit expert to determine preference of back pockets, fabric, and thread. Finally, the most exclusive option is true bespoke, in which, for around $1,200, you can create a one-of-a-kind style. There are 135 unique fabrics to choose from, all displayed on slightly mesmerizing giant rolls against a wall in the shop.
At 3x1, 18 people are involved in the 30-plus steps it takes to see a custom pair of jeans through to completion, which include design, development, cutting, sewing, washing, pressing, and finishing. A typical pair of 3x1 jeans is spread by hand, and each panel is individually hand-chalked and cut by one of the staff’s two cutters. Your pants are then sewn by one of 10 sewers, a process that typically takes about four hours, during which 95 percent of the garment is sewn on a single-needle sewing machine calibrated at an extremely high SPI (stitches per inch) of 11 to 14—almost double the SPI you’ll get in most jeans. Up to 25 pairs of jeans are created per day at the Mercer Street atelier.
“Ever since I visited my first denim factory, I always get a sense of excitement and optimism,” says Morrison, whose stellar denim résumé includes founding hit labels Paper Denim & Cloth and Earnest Sewn. “So I wanted to bring that sense of discovery with me and invite customers into the process. The transparency and effort that go into it really resonates with people. They have the opportunity to get involved, and it makes them excited.”
Located on Mercer St. in SOHO, 3X1 Denim is a big, bright, modern, white space that won me over the moment I walked through the door. The sales associates, all young and hip and sporting various cuts and colours of, you got it: denim, were quick to offer a genuine smile and a “hey, how’s it going?” but generally kept their distance until it became apparent that I had a question. From that point on, the customer service was outstanding. We were given a tour of the facility, offered a beverage (sparkling mineral water) and brought up to speed on both the company and what they offer.
At 3X1, you have three options when it comes to purchasing. One, you can choose your favourite from their six standard fits and buy them then and there ($265+). Two, you can select your fit and then customize everything from belt loops to pocket linings, which will then be made in shop and shipped to you in 3-5 weeks ($525+ depending on denim chosen). Or three, you can schedule a bespoke appointment and sit down with the team who will create a pattern just for you, specific to you likes and dimensions, which you then have on file and customize like option two ($1100+).
In my case, both the M4 (tapered) and M5 (slimmest) fit like a dream, so choosing was a bit tough. In the end, it was a gorgeous, limited edition of the M5 that won my heart. I then chose the hardware and hem length, paid and went for lunch. Two hours later, my jeans were ready to roll and wrapped up in a very clean, classy packaging along with care instructions. Even my buddy, who might just be the toughest person to fit in the world, and very self conscious about it, was able to find a pair he loves and is now wearing with pride.
In all honesty, I had no intention of buying denim that day. But 3X1 offers not only a top notch product, it offers an experience. One that was worth every damn pretty penny. Retailers, take note.