Celebrating the commitment and craft that it takes to make truly great products, a series of documentary films, A Passion for Craft, will play out on the CR website this month. In this issue we meet the makers featured in those films. From jeans and shoes, to cycles, signs and mobile phones, they share a passion to create the best. First up, The Huit Denim Co…
“When we go to bed at night we don’t dream about quality, we dream about changing the world or falling in love,” says David Hieatt. The Hiut Denim Co might make some of the best, and most expensive, jeans around but the Japanese Selvedge denim and the skills of the highly experienced staff who cut and sew it are only part of the brand’s appeal, he argues.
“Each day we come in and make the best jeans we know how,” Hiut say. “Use the best quality denims. Cut them with an expert eye. And then let our ‘Grand Masters’ behind the sewing machines do the rest. There is a great deal of satisfaction to be gained from making something well, of such superior quality that you know it is going to stand the test of time. It makes the hard work and the obsessing over each and every detail worth all the effort.”
Hieatt started his company in 2012 with his wife Clare after exiting from their previous clothes brand, Howies. Hiut’s main customers are creative people. “Their uniform is jeans isn’t it?” Hieatt says. To engage this audience of ‘ideas people’ he says, the brand needs ideas of its own. “We don’t change styles that often but we have to keep people interested.” In order to do that, Hiut has become one of the most active brands in creating what has become known as ‘branded content’. Its films, stories and photographic projects document life at its factory in Cardigan, Wales, as well as other makers’ studios.
“I realised that along with the jeans factory, we have to start another factory – a content factory,” he says.
So as well as getting to know the tools of the jeans-making business, Hieatt says a knowledge of the tools of modern media is equally important. “Understanding the world of Instagram and Twitter and blog posts is the only way we can get our message out because we can’t outspend anybody,” he says.
Because of the internet, the stories that Hiut can tell about its brand “travel further and faster than ever before”. Which means, Hieatt says, “There has never been a better time on the planet to be a small maker”.
And there is a certain camaraderie in this ‘makers’ club’ that Hieatt now feels part of where other small, craft-based businesses share knowledge and expertise in an informal network.
While making some of the best jeans money can buy is a key objective for the brand, Hieatt has a higher mission – to bring manufacturing back to the west Wales town of Cardigan. In 2002 the Dewhirst Ladieswear factory, which made jeans for the likes of Marks & Spencer, closed its doors putting 400 people out of work. Hieatt’s goal is, eventually, to find work for all 400.
“We started with five people, there are now 12 and there’s 388 other jobs to find. It isn’t the job of dreams to be sensible or logical – the dream for us is to get those 388 other people their jobs back.”