Fancy a pair of personalised jeans for $2,000? Head to Manhattan's 3x1 store

3x1’s Mercer Street store (above) in Manhattan has ready-to-wear products as well as bolts of raw material for tailoring jeans, which one can customise right down to details such as the buttons.
3x1’s Mercer Street store (above) in Manhattan has ready-to-wear products as well as bolts of raw material for tailoring jeans, which one can customise right down to details such as the buttons.PHOTOS: BLOOMBERG
3x1’s Mercer Street store in Manhattan has ready-to-wear products as well as bolts of raw material for tailoring jeans, which one can customise right down to details such as the buttons (above).
3x1’s Mercer Street store in Manhattan has ready-to-wear products as well as bolts of raw material for tailoring jeans, which one can customise right down to details such as the buttons (above). PHOTOS: BLOOMBERG

NEW YORK • What does US$1,500 (S$2,000) get you in blue jeans?

One answer is 44 pairs of Wranglers. Another option: Four or five pairs of raw denim - a rigid, rugged, unrinsed jean for true connoisseurs - from Pure Blue Japan, Samurai or any of the other excellent brands frequently hailed on Reddit's Raw Denim subthread.

A third, for a sophisticated rich- brat look, gets you a single reworked pair of Levi's, with asymmetrical cuffs, from Parisian design collective Vetements.

But if you believe that US$1,500 entitles you to completely personalised perfection, you will want an appointment at Manhattan's 3x1, reputed to offer the best tailor- made denim in the world.

Though the word bespoke has been misused and degraded, it legitimately applies to the custom work done at the company's SoHo premises.

"Bespoke is typically for harder- to-fit guys or people who have something really specific in mind," says 3x1 founder Scott Morrison, who launched the company in 2011, following the entrepreneurial successes of Paper Denim & Cloth and Earnest Sewn.

"The first thing we talk about is: What are you looking for in a pair of jeans?"

If you arrive with a reference garment, it will be measured and you will be photographed in it, a prelude to digital rendering.

You talk about the fit, discuss particulars - Do you want to change the pocket opening? How do you feel about the back pockets? - and then you talk about the denim.

Along the wall in the shop hang 70 bolts of denim, almost exclusively selvedge, which means that its edges are resistant to fraying.

But 3x1 can source more than 800 different types of denim.

If your tastes run Euro, and Diesel discontinues white jeans in your favourite club-going cut, Mr Morrison is your man.

Moreover, he can give raw denim any rinse you might dream of.

But for a relatively straightforward order, the matter starts with a simple choice, which concerns the slight tint beneath the blue of any jeans.

Mr Morrison says: "If you want the look of American jeans from the 1920s, 1930s, 1940s, 1950s, you want red-cast denim" - as opposed to the green-cast denim traditionally associated with Japan. In either case, the shade becomes more apparent over time.

The next consideration is the weight of the denim. A bigger yarn size means a thicker feel, a greater ability to crease and, thus, display sharp fades,and a more strenuous initial break-in period.

Mr Morrison, for instance, is wearing a fairly new, fairly stiff pair of raws. "This is the loom-state selvedge from Select," he says. "I've got to be honest: The first week was miserable. It'll be good down the road, but..."

He can explain the properties of indigo in, literally, microscopic detail. Let us just say that natural indigo justifies its high cost by being richer in tone and rarer than the synthetic stuff.

With the jeans fabric selected, it is time to discuss the many, many options for the exposed stitching thread.

Muted colours make the jeans dressier, while contrasting colours show off the virtue of work sewn on a rare, single-needle machine.

"With bespoke jeans, we don't make money on the first pair," Mr Morrison says of his business plan.

After his employees have spent 61/2 hours of pattern-making time on a prototype and then often made significant changes to that pattern, plus a whole do-over of a second garment, the costs add up.

"Unlike a tailor, who may be making a suit out of muslin or some kind of cheaper, substitute fabric, we can't do it that way."

Once customers have been through the process, though, they find it impossible to revert to buying off the rack.

"I wouldn't say it's a loss-leader strategy, but it's a little more goal-oriented," Mr Morrison says. "It works out well for us."

BLOOMBERG

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 31, 2017, with the headline 'Fancy a pair of personalised jeans for $2,000? Head to Manhattan's 3x1 store'. Print Edition | Subscribe