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Denimaniac Q&A | Jeff Shafer, Agave Denim

April 1, 2010

Let’s start with a confession – my first encounter with Californian denim brand Agave didn’t seem to be very promising. Approached by Jeff Shafer, Agave’s owner and designer, I went to take a look at their website and online lookbook which didn’t leave me impressed, but still I found myself curious to learn more about the brand and especially of the Agave Gold label, their all-selvage label. My contact with the brand resulted in me receiving a pair of gold label Purist jeans, a 12oz plant dyed indigo raw selvage denim from the Kuroki mill in Japan, and my opinion of the brand suddenly changed. Here’s why, but, for the record, let me say it loud and clear – Agave’s Gold label Purist jeans are GREAT (!) and full of little details and surprises, just how I like my denim…

Agave Gold is an all-selvage label that Jeff Shafer really designed for denim fanatics like himself. Each jean is authentic with details and labeling that any denim connoisseur will appreciate. Every season Shafer works on developing a selection of exclusive selvage fabrics with his favorite mills for the Gold Label. All fabrics are woven on 29” American vintage shuttle looms. This season features the premium denim from Japanese mills Kuroki, Kaihara and US- based Cone. Every jean is, of course, designed, sewn and hand -finished in the USA.

Agave Gold offers one fit, the “Purist”, which is a re-creation of a true classic jean fit with button fly. All Agave Gold selvage jeans are limited edition and each jean is numbered and signed personally by Shafer on a weathered leather paper label on the inside fly. Gold details include vintage cowhide debossed label with a hit of gold thread, a plain slightly elongated pocket design, reverse bartacks, concealed rivets, authentic bag pocketing & belt loop detail and waist loops. Each season as Shafer adds a new fabric he tweaks and adds small design elements. This season the newest fabrics from Cone include a “deconstructed” split pocket detail on back pocket design and cotton twill waistband and inside details.

Denimaniac’s Q&A with Jeff Shafer and more images of Agave’s Gold Label Purist jeans after the jump.

DM: How did it start for you? What drew you to the world of denim?

JS: I have always loved jeans. In 2003, I went to Japan with a vintage Levi’s distributor and was initiated into the ways of vintage American denim and its reproductions. Brands like Evisu, Big John, Edwin, Lee, Levi, and Wrangler. The passion and the product were indescribable. The people were incredibly cool too. We visited tons of indy shops selling vintage American and Japanese denim reproductions. I instantly became obsessed with vintage American denim.

What’s in the name?

Agave is a plant that grows wild all over California and Mexico. In Santa Monica where I grew up and lived, they are called “century plants” and are virtually indestructible. They are a succulent and live to be 100 years old. Humans have been using them for over 9,000 years for clothing (jute), rope (sisal) and beverage (tequila). I love the way they look.

Can you describe your creative process? What inspires you?

I am a fiber and textile driven designer. The fiber and the denim itself is the most important place to start. It determines hand feel, color, texture, and the overall look. The fit is either good or bad, current or not. The details make a jean cool or lame. The wash makes it art. I love jeans that have rich color and natural looking finishes, not gimmicks. Great denim defines the wearer. Shuttle loom selvage denim is the best and the only choice of real denim lovers.

What makes Agave Denim different or better than other denim brands?

Quality & Authenticity. I select about 25 new denims every season from a universe of over 500. Each is hand selected to fit the specific criteria of the season. Most are from Japanese mills like Kuroki, Kurabo, Kaihara, and Nisshinbo. Some are from Italy like Gentex. Then all the jeans are cut, sewn and finished at Caitac in Los Angeles. I inspect several jeans from every lot we produce and personally sign the limited edition Gold jeans.

What lies in the future for Agave?

Relentless pursuit of making the best quality denim on the planet in a way that is sustainable and leaves the planet in a better place.


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