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Denim: A [short] Biography

Updated: Sep 21, 2020

Unleash the dragon

If you are looking to manufacture denim like the above dragon jeans in China, then we probably need to cut the conversation short here. Just kidding, but it got your attention. We figured it would be a good idea to go through and illustrate some of the more popular fabrics, where they come from (as in their derivatives) and talk about their production and uses. So in part one: Denim.

A popular and go to choice for apparel manufacturers is of course denim. Everybody at some point in their life has rocked either a denim jacket or denim trousers aka jeans. Hopefully not both at the same time; that would be double-denim and a big no no except for those stuck in the 80s or guys with mullets. Those two by the way are often linked. Check your record collection and your wardrobe, revert back and keep reading.

Most people are familiar with the history of Denim really gaining recognition in the United States when miners and surveyors needed a pair of durable pants. I think wikipedia will confirm that a fella called Jacob W. Davis, a tailor from Nevada manufactured the first pair of denim pants with rivets. It was here, so the story goes that denim was born. Word spread fast, far and wide and before poor old Jacob knew it, he was getting orders left right and centre for denim pants with rivets in them, what we know now today as jeans. He then reached out to the Idea Lab to help him expand his demand and looked at out sourcing production to china in the hope of finding a good reliable clothing manufacturer. Sadly, neither China had the capacity and the idea lab hadn't really happened yet so he went to another good fellow by the name of Levis Strauss. A deal was truck, profit shared agreed upon and manufacturing was set up, not in Guangzhou South China, but San Francisco. Nowadays the story of denim is firmly in the past but as custom clothing manufacturers for small orders dealing with a range of private label sellers online on platforms such as Amazon and Shopify its a fabric we have come to know and love.

Denim is actually best described as a cotton based textile, with the weft [where the threads loom over and under with other threads passed through to make the cloth] This weaving process, although not unique, but specific produces Denim. The blue white colour contrast is itself an effect of the manufacturing process in which the warp thread is dyed [indigo] and the weft [thats the over and under] is left white. So when you flip the inside of your jeans to find that coin hanging in the bottom of the pocket you see the colour differences. This process of manufacturing which is so unique to denim also helps create that fading look, which has come to dominate the industry, as well as paying more money for rips, which frankly i've never understood as a foot always gets caught and ruins it. Happens every time!

There are variations in the mix and denim comes with its own creations. Dry Denim or as it sometimes is know, Raw denim is denim that is not washed after having been dyed during production. Of course given time and enough wear [go on, how often do you wash your jeans] the denim will fade in the areas where it receives the most stress. Generally speaking denim after being made into an article of clothing it should be washed to make it softer [aka more comfortable to wear] and reduce shrinkage [ thinking you've put on a few pounds overnight, when its just your denim post rinse]. Believe it or not, wikipedia spat out a technical term for this too. It is sanforization. Put that in your request for quotation to the idea lab.

"I'd like 200 pairs of jeans size S,M,L & XL. All of them must undergo extensive sanforization."

While we are on the technical terms, there are a few more that might [or not] interest you. Selvedge is the word given to the edge of the fabric when it comes from the loom. These are usually woven or knit so that they will not do the usual irritating things of fraying, unravelling or curling. Generally this can only be achieved when using a shuttle loom. The plot thickens however as when making denim with a shuttle, it produces a much narrow fabric, only 30 inches, which is typically half the width of other looms which don't use shuttles. This means of course that more fabric is used to make a pair of jeans from selvedge. So yep you guessed it, if you ask for selvedge denim jeans they are going to be a bit more expensive than the standard fare.

Definitely wanting to keep this short, to max 3 minutes so will wind it up here. Hope that little nugget of information was atleast mildly interesting and you might have learnt something. And of course if you are looking for clothing manufacturers in china, you are in the right place and on the right website and probably speaking to the right person. Guangzhou, South China is absolutely the place to do private label apparel manufacturing and hosts some of the best clothing suppliers in China. In fact the China garment manufacturing industry should be the first port of call for anyone [except those doing 10s of thousands of pieces, in which case Bangladesh] looking to get ahead with outsourcing some production to China.

In all cases we are a point of contact first, so feel free to ask us any questions, big or small and we will give you a reply.

If you are looking to get a quote on anything denim related then shoot us an email at

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and we have a youtube HERE now, but its off to a slow start as for sure I won't find enough time to make videos.


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