Los Angeles based, expat Kiwi Simon Miller makes the best pair of jeans I have ever worn*. Slim, raw, indigo denim with selvage detailing. Nothing else. I've worn them every day since I've been in Paris and I'm desperately trying to make my mark on them before I wash them for the first time. Miller was interviewed by The Monocle Weekly (Monocle Magazine's weekly podcast) who described his jeans as "The best we've found in our travels."
Here's what he had to say for himself.
On the advantages of growing up in New Zealand:
"In New Zealand you grow up with a sense that you can do anything. It's a country of three or four million and they think - rightly or wrongly - that it's the centre of the world. Everyone grows up thinking that Kiwis a) can do anything and b) should do anything. It was a little bit of a shock coming here from New Zealand and opening retail stores in New Zealand – it was certainly easier than doing it here in the US."
On how he got started in Los Angeles:
"I have a jeans store in New Zealand and I've been in and around it for a while, so when I came to the US I thought well look we'll just start a jeans brand, it seems easy enough, I don't think it will be too problematic, and I arrived and I just threw myself into it and made every mistake in the book when I started. Not aesthetically wise but production – you have no idea of the breadth of things involved."
On quality over quantity:
"It's all about volume here – I was always interested in creating the best quality garments but that was contrary to what everyone wants here. Everyone here wants volume."
On the Kiwi OE:
"The great thing about New Zealanders is that everyone travels. When you finish high school and university the number one thing on kids' minds is not to go and get a job, it's travel. So you do get a tonne of influence from all around the world. When i moved to the US i couldn't believe how egocentric they were, how they really just focus on everything US."
On what makes the perfect pair of jeans:
Certainly I'm not going to be as arrogant as to say we have the perfect jeans, we're far from it right now, but that's the goal. I think it's a mixture of fabric, quality and sewing. Those are the three things for me. We're maybe less interested in making a tonne of washes right now, we're more interested in the sewing and the fit and the actual fabric. If you can mesh the four elements – good fit, something that's durable, a good price and good quality – then you're onto a good thing."
On denim purists:
"There are a tonne of replica fans out there and people interested in creating jeans that were made in the 1950s in the exact same way with the exact same loom in the exact same cotton, but that's not really relevant to most people."
On the role of social media and marketing in his business:
"I'm completely disinterested, for good or bad or whatever. All I'm interested in is getting up, going to work and making jeans. And doing them to the best I can. I cannot multitask, I have a single focus. The whole marketing aspect of that sort of thing is not something that I've ever been interested in at all. All I want to do is build a good brand, build a good product, I want to do it over time, I do not want to do it overnight. If I can do that, I will be happy and I think that's all you can really ask for, right?
*Full disclosure: I was gifted my pair of Simon Miller jeans. But they still are the best I've ever worn.
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