Kicking Mule Workshop---or KMW, which you'll can see etched into the donut buttons on their superlative jeans--fell off the radar last year, but the Denver-based denim specialists are poised for a comeback. Styleforum co-head-dude Fok Yan Leung recently spoke with Joe and Barb of KMW about the brand and their plans for the coming seasons.
Styleforum: We were really missing you for fall/winter 2009 and only saw a bit of you for spring/summer 2010. What happened, and what's going on for spring 2011, fall 2011, and beyond? Changes or similarities to what you've done in the past? I really liked your collection pieces"”actually have a henley and a tee"”any plans for more clothing and accessories?
Kicking Mule Workshop: When the economy started to fail we found ourselves contemplating whether to make things we didn't want to make in order to stay alive. So, we chose to sit it out (rather than make crap) and see if we could emerge out the other side, designing and developing even better product. And I think we accomplished that. The denim and fits are now better then ever, with subtle changes that make the jeans even more special without losing their original details, such as the wide busted side seam, left hand twill fabric, and corded belt loops. We are playing around with a few leather wallets made from some pretty special leather, a very burly belt and an authentic loopwheel fleece sweatshirt. We are being very careful not to expand to other products too quickly. We just aspire to make things that wear in rather than wear out.
You guys have four cuts"”do you foresee any more in the future? I would really like to see the 1980 with a higher rise and slightly roomier top block.
The four current fits cover what's right for KMW. We have made some subtle changes to the cuts to keep them relevant going forward. We really love the way the 1950 and 1980 fit and have done nothing to alter those fits significantly. We think the 1950 is so perfect it almost makes the 2010 unnecessary, so we'll be downplaying the 2010. The Rocker has had the most changes"”we have loosened up the fit and made it more wearable but still slightly tapered and narrow at the hem.
I have two of your belts (one in brown and one in natural). They are seriously solid but they are priced at about $360"”that's closing in on designer territory. Is that scary for you? For your customer? I mean, you are carried mostly in men's contemporary, right?
Sticking with the theme of wearing in rather than wearing out, we like to think that our belts are not just belts, but heirlooms. We hope this belt gets handed down for generations. It really will last that long and just continue getting better. I don't think $360 seems disproportionate; besides, it cost a ton to handmake these in Japan so we can't sell them for less.
I read in the New York Times that the $200 jean is the new $300 jean. You guys seem to be headed the other way, going to $300+ on most of your denim. Could you tell us your thoughts on the placement of KMW in the market?
I'm not sure where the retailers are going. I think most of them are confused and nervous and not sure where to go. But we believe that there will always be people who appreciate exceptional denim. As far I can tell, there are only a few brands making exceptional Japanese denim that fit the American male body. Also, it's what we like to do, so we'll continue doing it.
There are a number of "artisanal" jeans companies, but these are by-and-large Japanese brands dedicated to reproducing heritage jeans. This doesn't seem to be your intent. How do you see yourself positioned in the future?
We just want to make a great pair of simple, updated jeans. It's not more complicated than that.
What is it like being based in Boulder, as opposed to being close to the action in NYC or LA? For that matter, why Boulder?
We are mountain people and like to live in the clean dry air. Boulder is a pretty special place with incredible weather with high mountain access. I think living outside all the action makes us see things a little clearer. We get to NYC four to six times a year, and more importantly we get to Japan about three times a year so we stay pretty connected.
Your brand was highly praised on Internet forums, including this one. Do you read about yourselves ever? What are your thoughts on the Internet as a force in fashion?
We love the blogs that are well curated, such as ACL, One Trip Pass, Jake & Jill and Sartorialist. Every few months we'll read the denim forums to see what is being said but we don't over rev on the good or the bad comments. We agree that blogs, forums and commerce will converge and we hope to play a role in that in the coming months.
I've heard there is a little more focus on leather pieces coming soon. What is the inspiration for that? What can we expect?
We found some amazing leather in Japan. It is finished by way of a very old tanning technique using fish oil. It wears in wonderfully. When we found it we knew we needed to make something out of it. Like the jeans, the wallets are simple and functional and are made of undyed leather so they get a fine patina over time.
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