Universal Works: Hand Loom Indigo Denim

By Adam Friday 12th Jun, 2020
Taking the origins of Japanese workwear and re-interpretating across various fabrics and styles has been something we have long-admired at Dapper Chapper. Nottingham-based Universal Works sits at the top of our list of brands doing it so well.
Here we speak with owner David Keyte about his fascination with Handloom Indigo Denim, which is present as an integral part to the Universal Works offer, and one which is based on longevity and craftsmanship as opposed to mere seasonal trends.
“It’s sometimes forgotten that the word ‘Indigo’ comes from the name the Europeans first gave to this mysterious colour coming along the trade routes from the East,” he says “The word Indigo is actually a derivation of the Persian words meaning Indian dye or Indian colour – so in actual fact Indigo dying of fabric was not invented in USA, France or Japan but in India. That long, rich history using real plant-based indigo dye still continues to this day,” Keyte adds.
Today, this process is mostly confined to small scale production by village artisans using hand looms – somewhat of a misnomer as while they are older, lower narrow looms they are often powered but controlled by hand and produce a much less “perfect” cloth. At Universal Works Handloom Denim is produced by small scale production in Gujarat, India –  a traditional skill being preserved and encouraged by locally-based NGOs to support local business and local employment to prevent more migration to the cities and loss to traditional techniques.
“We produce two weights of fabric through this method; one shirt weight and one a more true denim weight, using locally produced slub yarns with an ecru or natural undyed warp and indigo weft producing what we think is a wonderful irregular and unique fabric,” Keyte says.
“Made in lengths of cloth approximately 20m long and 90cm wide, each piece will make around five jackets and with the hand-dying of the yarns and nature of the hand process of the weaving, it really means each piece is truly unique. Over time each piece will fade and take a history of its own.”
But within the beauty of Handloom Indigo Denim lies a nasty surprise, especially for first time wearers/buyers of the product.
Keyte says “This is real Indigo, so if its your first time with plant dyed Indigo, so loved by the Japanese it can come as a shock that the colour can be somewhat transferable. It will come off on your white T-shirt and your white leather sofa ( if your living in the 1980’s thats is) so be careful for the first time you wear it, maybe the second time too.”
The current product featuring Handloom Indigo Denim includes the Tie Front Jacket, Rose Bowl Jacket and Labour Jacket, ranging from £225-£285. For further information please visit www.universalworks.co.uk