Exclusive Denim Interview With Hem & Haw

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I was recently introduced to a new brand called Hem + Haw, who I’m more than happy to collaborate with on this blog post as they are, for lack of a better word, really cool. Hem + Haw is not a jeans brand as such, but more of an upcycling, creative, and DIY denim brand that turns old jeans into denim bags! How fun is that? They are so new that they have a Kickstarter page which you should definitely check out for more information, and support them if you think the concept is great too!

So who are Hem + Haw? I caught up with Hope Mills, the brands founder, to interview her and find out more about the inspiration, creativity, and ideas behind the brand. In the meantime, why not sign up to the Hem & Haw brand newsletter to keep up to date with their journey! Check out the interview below. 

The Jeans Blog – So tell us about your brand/company?

Hem + Haw – We’re Hem + Haw, a New Orleans, Louisiana (USA)-based company that takes old jeans and turns them into new bags.

Where did you find the inspiration to do this?

You know that old phrase, necessity is the mother of invention? In this case, the necessity was not being ready to give up a pair of hole-y jeans that I really loved.

How did you come up with the name – Hem + Haw?

To “hem and haw” is a familiar Southern (US) phrase. If someone is hemming and hawing, they’re usually putting off giving a straight answer (in conversation). In a more positive light, it means you’re biding time, keeping your options open—kinda how we see what we’re doing with our jeans. And there’s an obvious nod to “hem,” an important feature on any pair of jeans.

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What makes you love jeans so much? Do you have a history with denim?

My dad came of age in the 60s, so jeans and Birkenstocks were his attire when I was growing up (this was before Birkenstocks were cool). He was a small-town pastor for most of my life and I remember there were huge issues with him wearing jeans in church. So jeans as an object (protest object?) got stuck in my head early on.

I have this memory, too, of being five or so and craving a pair of black jeans with colored lines in them—a specific Jordache style. These are jeans I obviously still think about.

Why did you decide you wanted to re-use denim in this way?

It likely originated from a selfish place—I love my jeans. I live so much life in them, make so many memories, that I have a hard time discarding them when the time comes. I’ve been guilty of desperate patching. If I could find a way to give this fabric I love a new life, I could live with them longer, take them into new adventures. I also really love finding ways to use things more than once or in new ways—from antiques to clothes to food.

Can you tell us what the process is from turning a pair of jeans into a bag?

I collect jeans from a variety of places—Goodwill Outlets, Salvation Army and lots of discards from friends, family and sometimes strangers. I cut off the legs and open up one of the leg seams and then ship this off to my manufacturer in North Carolina. From there, they do all the official cutting and stitching.

What made you decide to use leather with the denim?

There’s a lot of custom hand work in these bags—from prepping the jeans for the pattern cutting to fitting the cut pieces together. Incorporating the leather brought something consistent to what we knew would be a lot of variables in terms of denim washes. Plus, denim and leather is always a winning combo.

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Are there some pairs of jeans that you find just too pretty to cut up?

Totally. Sorting through stacks and stacks of old denim is like exploring fashion history. Mudd, mavi, l.e.i. were icons of my adolescence. But the ones that stop me, that I don’t put the scissors near, are most often Lees, Levis and Wranglers from the 80s. The original washes, styles and cuts from back then were fascinating. Especially the ones that have a little “lived in” life to them, too (most often the Wranglers in that case).

Other than being made from jeans, what makes your bags unique?

We’ve been really thoughtful about how these bags can be used. The smallest bag, the Conroy, can function as a zip pouch you throw in another bag, or something you can use on its own (it comes with a leather strap for your wrist). The larger clutch also works as a cross body bag, so it has that same sort of flexibility.

I think it’s pretty cool that these jeans have had some sort of story and life before they became a bag. Also: I’m pretty sure these are the only bags with their own Spotify playlist.

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Do you have a favourite bag you have created so far?

We’re launching with two designs, but my favorite is probably the smaller one, the Conroy. It was the first one I made as a prototype and I made it from my first pair of designer jeans, a gift from my best friend when she lived in California. Those jeans opened my eyes to a whole new world of amazing-ness. I patched and sewed those things up for far too long.

Who would be your ideal customer?

You have to love denim to love these bags for sure, so I think anyone who appreciates the specialness of this fabric and isn’t scared off by the smaller sizes.

Can we expect to see different designs and ideas from you in the coming seasons?

We’ve got some bags in the works to hold all our tech devices as well as some wallets. The trick is always trying to find a way to maximize the denim available in a pair of jeans—and that’s mostly in the legs. I’d love to create a larger bag too, so that’s my next priority.

Thank you so much! These denim bags look and sound really good! I hope it takes off!

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Photo Credit: Bishoto

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