When it comes to shopping for luxury fashion, it is usually easy to see where your money is being spent: an intricately stitched lapel, delicately filigreed perforations in the leather, a plush, handwoven knit. But this kind of quality is not always apparent to the untrained eye—especially when it comes to the work-horse basics of your wardrobes like cotton T-shirts and jeans.
The difference between a $150 pair of jeans and a pair that costs four times as much can come down quite literally to the root of the garment—stemming from the cotton itself. Though luxury cotton is normally only associated with 2,000-thread-count sheets, using high-quality cotton like Supima (which makes up just 2 percent of the world’s supply) makes a huge difference in the look and longevity of your favorite pair of jeans or most-worn T-shirt.
No one knows the value of this cotton quite like Scott Morrison, founder of luxury denim brand 3×1 and a 20-year industry veteran. Known for being one of the first denim brands in the world to offer a full-fledged bespoke program, the brand also uses Japanese-spun, American made selvedge denim that has garnered a cult following.
Earlier this month, Morrison visited the central Californian farm where the Supima cotton used in his ever-popular jeans takes root—and took Robb Report along for the ride. Here, we sat down to pick his brain on everything you’ve ever wanted to know about denim.
When did you discover the benefits of using denim made of Supima cotton in your designs?
Early on in my career, a couple of ideas started to stand out. Like any decent chef will tell you, the quality of the ingredients make a huge difference to the quality of the end product—and in our case, cotton is the key ingredient in making jeans. It only took me a couple of developments back in the early 2000s to make a case for using Supima cotton in our collection, as it is great for making strong, lightweight denim that is super soft.
How do you decide which styles to make using Supima cotton denim?
Typically, Supima denims have a more sophisticated appearance. They have more of a sheen, and the smoother feel provides better drape on the body. These denims are also known for their strength in lighter weights [thanks to Supima cotton’s extra-long fibers], so we take each of these qualities into account to determine which fabric works best with which silhouette, and the story we want the style to tell.
3×1’s denim is grown in the U.S., spun in Japan, and then made in the U.S. Can you tell us about why this manufacturing process is important?
Sadly, I think American-made jeans are headed down the path of extinction given the fact that it’s more expensive to produce jeans in the U.S. than just about anywhere else in the world. 3×1 was founded on the idea of celebrating denim’s unique history in America—after all, it was invented here. We love our commitment to making jeans in New York City and California and the quality and integrity that comes with manufacturing here, and expect to see that continue in the future.
[That said,] we use a lot of Japanese denim because the Japanese manufacturers have always had an affinity for detail and quality—and their use of Supima cotton in their denims makes them nothing short of the best.
What was the most impactful part about visiting the Supima farm for you?
I’m always intrigued by innovation, and the innovations that have been made to cotton growing and processing since I’ve been in the jean business are far too many to mention. From the use of technology to track soil quality, moisture levels, and crop qualities in each field to the new machinery used to harvest the cotton while making sure it isn’t damaged in the processing . . . it’s simply amazing. Seeing it reconfirmed for me Supima’s commitment to growing the best cotton in the world.
What is your favorite 3×1 Supima style?
Without a doubt, the M3 xx336 ($365) from Kaihara, Japan, is my favorite Supima denim in our shop. We offer it several ways—washed, washed with brushed black finish, rinsed, and raw—but no matter what way you go, it has an unbelievable combination of softness and strength. If I’m looking for a jean to wear almost all year-round, it’s simply perfect.