Some would say denim is the fabric of American life and a Hartford company is creating them by hand, made-to-order.
Luke Davis, Dave Marcoux and Marshall Deming, three childhood friends in their mid-20s who were born and raised in West Hartford, started Hartford Denim Company.
By hand, they cut the fabric, add the rivets and attach the leather patch shaped like Connecticut. There are about 50 steps and the result is a piece of wearable art.
“It really started as us wanting to customize our own wardrobes and it grew into the people around us being interested," Davis said.
The three friends don’t think of themselves as designers, they call themselves jeans makers.
Davis learned to sew in middle school and taught the Marcoux and Deming. Their hobby was sewing quality leather camping bags, and that has grown to making jeans.
“People are very attached to their jeans,” Marcoux said, and nothing is better than jeans that fit perfectly.
They use raw, untreated denim from North Carolina, thread from New Bedford, Massachusetts and rivets from Baltimore. Ultimately, they want to grow their own cotton and make their own denim.
They also use antique sewing machines found on Craigslist.
Marcoux said they're more reliable than today's machines.
"They're very strong. When they do break it’s easier to fix than these newer machines," he said.
The three friends started making jeans in 2010 in the basement of their parents' homes, but outgrew the spaces and moved into a rental space.
Then, they outgrew the rental space and they're now at an industrial building on Arbor Street in Hartford.
Marcoux said they are also uncovering secrets from New England's past and even Hartford's past.
“This was the center of textile production both fabric and garments," he said.
For now, they want to keep the feel local and encourage potential customers to come and visit the space.
“Just to give people the opportunity to be able to come down and see an operation like this is really incredible,” Marcoux said.
Hartford Denim Company has a small retail store at the site, where customers can buy jeans off the rack for $250.
However, the heart of the business is made-to-order jeans, which cost $350 a pair.
“What we put into a pair of jeans is far beyond the price we sell them for,” Davis said.
So far, they've sold several hundred pairs and have many more orders from all over. Recently, a group drove from New Jersey to visit the factory and spent the weekend in Hartford.
Other customers come a longer way.
"We had a guy come in from Japan. He contacted us six months in advance said he wanted to come to Hartford and try on some styles," Davis said. He did buy a pear.
"Business is great. We can't really keep up with it," Davis said.
Deming said the jeans come with a lifetime guarantee.
"We're here to work with them and have them find the pair of pants they're happy with and grow with and wake up in the morning and just put on their jeans and, if they break, then we'll put them back together and we're building a really beautiful relationship with people that way," Deming said.
It takes four to eight weeks to make one pair.
The next phase of the business for Davis, Marcoux and Deming is selling the jeans wholesale to stores.