“There’s a naturally beautiful synergy between the West Coast history of denim and a New York identity that creates something modern, updated,” Scott Morrison, the founder of 3X1, explains as he takes us on a tour of his unusual downtown Manhattan store and workshop. The big, light space on Mercer Street, which Morrison opened two years ago after previously founding Paper Denim & Cloth and Earnest Sewn, houses 3X1’s retail space alongside all the facets of its bespoke operation, including bolts of fabric, customization materials, and the garment sewers themselves.
The company offers men’s and women’s premium denim at three levels — ready-to-wear, custom, and bespoke. With every option, Morrison tries to bring the consumer into the creation process, adding an increasing number of details that they choose themselves. Even with 3X1′s ready-to-wear fits, customers pick out their own hardware (buttons and rivets), and the jeans are tailored to the correct length, in-store, at the moment they’re purchased.
At the custom level, the wearer chooses almost everything — type of denim, pocket, thread theory (color), belt loop style, hidden or regular coin pocket, hem, and the hardware — and these details are applied to one of the label’s preexisting fits. Though 3X1 specializes in selvedge jeans, the brand keeps things contemporary with an equally high quality range of other options, like super-soft women’s stretch denim in grays and pale blues, plus trend-driven styles like slick coated black.
At the made-to-measure level, for which 3X1 is probably most well known, every detail is up to the customer. (Besides denim aficionados, this option is also popular with models and athletes, Morrison told us. They have particular frames to size.) There are no set number of fittings; “we fit until it’s perfect,” Morrison says. The process is digitized throughout, so the company has a record of the person’s measurements and preferences to refer to for follow-up bespoke pairs (which are $700 versus the initial pair’s $1200 price tag).
At a time when the processes behind fast fashion are increasingly and deservedly under scrutiny, Morrison’s brand offers a New York-made alternative that employs highly skilled garment workers crafting a quality product you’ll keep for life. Even better, while 3X1 is one of several jeans labels offering a new kind of transparency of process, they’re the only company doing so in conjunction with making completely custom denim.
Join us on a tour of the space, the jeans, and their creators:
The store is laid out to reflect how Morrison approaches the process of making jeans. First you see the fabrics, then the fits, the production area, and last, finished garments on the rack. Ready-to-wear hangs outside the sewing room.
There are 80 fabrics displayed on the south wall of the store, and 262 to choose from all together. They’re in a constant rotation, with some core options plus new ones that come in every week.
Denim options are displayed by increasing weight. Morrison works with mills all over the world; at 3X1, you'll always know who wove your denim.
The team at 3X1 uses some vintage machines, like the one shown here, but Morrison noted that they're “not a replica house.” While some selvedge denim brands, particularly in Japan, build an identity around jeans made as they would have been at the turn of the century, 3x1 “tries to bridge the past with the future. We skirt both worlds,” says Morrison, pointing out that “for women’s stretch jeans, for example, you need to use newer machines.” Primarily everything the brand produces, however, is made with single needle machines -- “the two rows of stitches show how talented our sewers are.”
Morrison taught us how to recognize a bolt of selvedge denim in two ways: first, it shouldn’t be longer than 32 inches, because the shuttle looms on which it's made can’t weave it any wider. Second, the fabric will always be finished with a clean edge. In the past, different mills identified their denim with a unique color of stitching at the edge, though that system isn’t in place anymore. Interesting fact: there are only 31 functioning shuttle looms left in operation in the world.
While garment workers at a mass production operation might produce around 60 pairs of jeans per day, 3X1’s skilled artisans sew, at most, two. “I thought it would be easier than it was,” Morrison admits, to find sewers. “There are a finite number of workers who can operate this denim machinery. What I did find are amazing sportswear sewers. They infuse a New York-centric sportswear sensibility into the variables of denim.” Here, a pattern cutter plies his trade.
Every piece of fabric is ironed before being sewn.
A photograph of the original looms at Cone Mills, an American mill still in operation today. Workers would man two machines at a time, tying together the inevitable broken threads, which gave the original selvedge denim its unique, inconsistent look.
Custom finishing options, including buttons and rivets customers can pick out to apply to ready-to-wear fits.
The finished product: men’s selvedge denim, framed above a row of women’s ready-to-wear jeans.