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Interview | Shannon Sadler for ONVIS Jeans

December 17, 2009

One of the perks that come from writing this blog is the chance to occasionally get a first hand impression of those denim products I usually only report about. A new Italian denim brand, ONVIS, asked me to check out their core product – the raw selvage jeans, they poetically named ‘BLUEVIRGIN’ and find out for myself (and you) what’s it all about.

The concept behind the brand is quite an unusual one – ONVIS offers people selvage raw denim jeans –‘Bluevirgins’ – to a very reasonable price, asking them to live their products everyday by (ab)using them as much as possible. Once daily life has left it‘s traces on the denim ONVIS asks people to send back their pair of worn-out denim to choose and eventually replicate the mood for a possible next limited edition of the so called ‘Truestories’ collection. Once a new authentic ‘Truestories’ model has been created the respective originator will get paid a royalty on the collection‘s effective sales and will be portrayed on   

The style is a straight forward classic Five Pockets with updated comfortable and functional fitting. Unlike many other denim brands ONVIS does not follow any logo buzz but rather focus on finishing and subtle details. As this is not the common conduct for an Italian jeans brand, I wanted to talk to Shannon Sadler – the brand’s founder and designer – to clear a few points:

DM: First of all – you have a degree in Economics, what drew you to the world of denim? Why did you start Onvis?

SS: – By chance: I was working for REPLAY ( in London when I went to L.A. and after a discussion with ADRIANO GOLDSCHMIED I realized there was a need in replication of vintage look. I came back to Italy and I developed a new technology to achieve such look. – After 6 years in this field I started developing ONVIS because I realized there was a need for such kind of projects. I wanted to give a good product at a reasonable price (BLUEVIRGINS) even if made of salvage fabric and replicate real stories on denim (TRUESTORIES) recognizing a royalty to the owner of such story.

What’s in the name?

Might sound silly… but… because it represents me and at the same time it doesn’t. ‘SIANO’ is my nick name. If you rotate ONVIS logo you will read SIANO. At the same time I was looking for something short, easy to remember, and pronounced in the same way in different languages…

What makes Onvis different or better than other denim brands?

We try to be spontaneous and authentic; we don’t focus on logo buzz because we believe that in the long term people with the same attitude will appreciate this approach.

Continue reading after the jump

Without revealing any trade secrets, how do you create the different ‘aged’ looks?

With the technologies and know-how we developed here at the “chicken-farm” during these years in denim. The chicken farm is our studio where we share space with other creative designers working on shoes and other fields.

I noticed there aren’t a lot of Italian boutique denim brands, how do you explain that?

Maybe this is the result of how people dress here. They are addicted to brands and follow the total look concept. They don’t create their own style like happens in London, New York or Tokyo… Hard for a small boutique dedicate to denim to survive in such hard market.

Are you interested in creating a ‘total-look’ collection for your customers, or prefer to dedicate your brand to denim only?

In these first years we prefer to focus on denim only as we think there is still a long way to replicate an authentic used look and taste … and we would like to fill that gap. On the other hand the new ONVIS on line shop (deadline end of the year) will have unique washes (only one piece) and objects of design we called ‘rarities’ that we collect on flea markets in cities around the world.

What changes have you seen in the denim market in the last few years?

To be honest I didn’t see any big change in the last years and I think that all brands, including us, should focus on the mentioned gap and develop new tools, technology and ideas to move a step forward and surprise the final customer.

What’s the best way to age and treat Bluevirgins?

Wear it the longest you can before washing the first time, rinse wash them in a bucket with warm water and little soap. Hang them to dry. Always inside out. NO TUMBLE DRY, NO IRON.

You’ve lived in Paris, London and Italy; do you have a favorite denim shop(s)?

I don’t have a particular shop that I like, what I like most is getting lost in these cities and find small corners that can surprise me. If you are talking about inspiration I usually don’t go shopping, I rather go to flea markets, museums, events, gigs.

What lies in the future for Onvis?

Events, maybe temporary shops around Europe with gigs and exhibitions. We would like people to consider ONVIS more like a rock band then a denim brand. I would like people to come to our shows and have fun.

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