Design your own denim: A review of the custom ReJean experience

 

This is a guest blog post by ethical fashion writer Ruth MacGilp

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Side view of Ruth MacGilp in her custom ReJean Denim jacket.
 
Back in August, in that sweet limbo between strict lockdowns, I hopped on a train to Glasgow. The weather was dreich in true Scottish summer style, but I was in a great mood, because I was on my way to design my very own ReJean jacket. 

 

The Service

The custom service provided by ReJean offers people the opportunity to develop their own unique, personalised denim jacket, handcrafted in the ReJean studio. There is a huge menu of options for fit, seams, pockets, sleeves, collars, embroidery, and of course colours and textures from the one-of-a-kind reclaimed materials, Usually, this service takes place virtually, with 1:1 video consultations and email conversations to co-design your jacket, but I was lucky enough to get a real life behind-the-scenes peek into the ReJean world, face masks notwithstanding.

A pinboard full of thread and habedashery and our highly coveted Reece 101 Buttonhole Machine

Image credit: Neal Gruer for The Delicate Rebellion


After a cup of coffee and catch up in Siobhan’s unique studio space nestled in the heart of Glasgow’s iconic Barras Market, I laid out the vision of my dream design. I already own two excessively worn third-hand blue denim jackets, so I knew I wanted something a little different. Still, as a self-confessed denim jacket aficionado, this piece had to be versatile and go with most of my outfits. I wanted a subtle second skin for my admittedly minimalist wardrobe, and maybe some interesting little details to stand out.

 

The Design Consultation

Siobhan expertly translated my vague ramblings - a huge relief for someone without any kind of design eye. She described a relaxed, raglan-sleeve jacket, all in black but with a patchwork of different shades and textures, plus a forest green collar to add some colour. I instantly connected with this and happily followed her upstairs to the studio’s loft where vast quantities of freshly washed jeans sit on colour-coded shelves. 

Ruth by the Leith docs showing off her new custom ReJean jacket

Roughly three pairs of jeans is the ideal number for a jacket like this, Siobhan told me, and she deftly picked out three different shades: a pure jet black jean, a faded vintage jean with distressed detail, and a black corduroy. At the bottom of a sack hidden away in a corner full of scraps and seconds, she found a perfect green denim for the collar, too.

With the jeans laid out on a cutting table ready to be unpicked and stitched back together, Siobhan walked me through her signature system of designing as she cuts and pins, a flexible process that allows for the original features of the denim to lead the way. Pre-loved jeans can have so many interesting details that tell rich stories about their previous life, and these jacket designs aim to celebrate that slice of fashion history.

a cutting table with patterns, denim and shears.

Image credit: Neal Gruer for The Delicate Rebellion

 

The Measurements


Finally, we got to the most important part - taking measurements. As a tall woman, finding jackets that fit can be a nightmare, so supremely long sleeves, roomy pockets, broad shoulders and a longline shape were my priorities. A few weeks later, a very exciting email landed in my inbox letting me know that my custom jacket was complete and on its way.

There is nothing quite like wearing something that’s been especially made-to-measure for you, an experience that anyone who doesn’t fit within the standard clothes sizing spectrum will relish. But getting a custom jacket isn’t just about the fit. It’s about participating in a new fashion system where the customer is the co-designer - reducing returns and textile waste, and levelling up the creativity and passion behind what we make, buy and wear.

close up of Siobhan sewing some reclaimed denim        Photo by Tom Barr of KDDandCO

 

Low Impact Denim


The traditional denim industry is infamously destructive, contributing more than its fair share to the climate and biodiversity crisis. Approximately 1800 gallons of water is used to grow the cotton to make just one pair of jeans, not to mention a toxic mix of pesticides. That’s before any of the resource-intensive and highly polluting dyeing and finishing processes. What's more, one garbage truck worth of unwanted clothing is wasted every single second, the majority of which has failed to be repaired or recycled. Over 65% of what we wear contains synthetic materials, including lots of new denim products, which will not biodegrade in landfill.


Close-up of Siobhan working hard at the sewing machine

Image Credit: Neal Gruer for the Delicate Rebellion


Fortunately, sustainability is something Siobhan takes incredibly seriously as a designer. Not just through the materials she uses (100% reclaimed second-hand denim), but with her uncompromising focus on longevity. Each jacket is so clearly made to last, with an astute attention to detail paid through the very nature of her patchwork process. My custom jacket even came with a lifetime guarantee for repairs, something most brands see as a risk not worth investing in, with many retreating from these kinds of services during the pandemic. Repair is a revolutionary act, but when it comes to a more significant fashion investment, it’s so comforting to know it won’t be botched with DIY mends. Instead, if any faults pop up they’ll be in the safe hands of an expert seamstress.

Everything we wear says something about who we are. Sustainable fashion is part of who I am, but I’m also proud of my Scottish roots, and of being part of a creative community of talented people here. That’s why supporting fiercely independent brands like ReJean is so important to me. If a garment is made by workers who are not paid fairly and treated with respect and dignity, you cannot say it is beautiful. Only when there is integrity in the process behind it can it truly be worn with pride.

closeup of Ruth by the sea, in her new custom ReJean jacket
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Fancy your own made-to-measure denim? Find out more about the custom service, explore the illustrated custom design menu, and when you’re ready, place your order. You can also grab a gift card to give the gift of a custom denim jacket experience to someone you love.

 

 

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