We are in a unique period in terms of replica clothing. Almost two centuries of workwear has been collected and edited into a semi-coherant market place that stretches from Japan in the east to Sweden in the west. Small jeans makers are setting up highly creative workshops and studios and larger companies are mining their back catalogues for mid-century styles. Incredible indigo discharge prints are emerging from Japan in the style of the fabrics produced by J.L. Stifel & Sons, some of which were used by the Wabash Railroad company of the American Mid-West. Such dot and diamond motifs on (cotton) calico became a staple textile for work wear in the US during the 19th century. As far as I can see such recreations of historical clothing has never happened and the attention to detail can be quite deliberate and fastidious. This only serves to make the scene more interesting and obsessive.
A San Francisco based workshop the company consists of three individuals: Nick Kemp, Melissa Vu (pictured above) and John Alburl (I hope to photograph him soon). It looks like Melissa is wearing a wabash shirt by a maker like The Flat Head (I might be wrong) and jacket by Jack Knife while Nick is wearing a hunting jacket and waistcoat made by Jack Knife and then waxed with Otter Wax by the owner. They offer a hand-made product with each line of stitching sewn by a single needle – instead of the more industrial twin-needle machine used in most factories. This means you need a highly skilled machinist to sew parallel lines of stitching. They hand cut each pattern and hammer the rivets by hand.
The end product has a historical feel but very few denim studios are actually copying a single historical pair of jeans or a jacket and Jack Knife is no different. This talented group take elements from historical items and bringing them together to form a new design with their own added input. This follows exactly the process that would have taken place in the workwear business during the first part of the 20th century, with manufacturers borrowing ideas from one another. As I develop this project I will be showing the rest of the Jack Knife crew, the studio and their product.