When you hear “cardigan” you think of those modest little sweaters that button down the front. But the Cardigan we’re talking about is a charming bay-side town on the far western edge of Wales that used to be Britain’s largest supplier of jeans. For almost 40 years, 35,000 pairs of jeans came out of Cardigan every week. In 2001, the denim factories closed in pursuit of profits overseas. 400 people were without jobs and world-class jean makers were left with no craft.
A decade later, David Hieatt, resident of Cardigan and founder of the Do Lectures, decided it was time for the town to make jeans again. David is a fascinating and soulful entrepreneur who believes that business is a means to a purpose. In 2012, he reopened the doors to the denim factory as Hiut Denim, a raw and selvedge denim company. Let the crush begin.
David knows all too well that purpose supplies your inner drive, fuels invention, and when times get tough, stops you from quitting. It gives you a reason to fight and keep fighting. Hiut Denim isn’t fighting a battle to be cheap and fast, they’re fighting a battle they actually want to win – to deliver something truly remarkable in the form of the best jeans on planet earth.
The culture of Huit Denim is built on a manifesto of sorts where “ideas rule and people can come in and do their best work, where it’s accepted that failure is a by-product of risk, and where trying new things is just the normal thing to do.” The best tool to build culture is a big crazy dream for everyone to rally behind. “Culture builds the team. The team builds the company,” David says. We couldn’t have said it better ourselves.
Hiut’s motto, “Do One Thing Well,” gives them an advantage in the pursuit of being rare and remarkable. In a world where most brands try to be everything for everyone, Hiut believes in doing just one thing exceptionally well. “You are not just the things that you do, but the things you say no to. Saying no is focus. We only make jeans. We say no to anything else. Be narrow. Be good.”
Hiut’s small team of Grand Masters make 100 pairs of jeans a week. Grand Masters are the men and women that had jobs at the factory before it closed. Pulling from decades of experience, the jean makers of Cardigan supply a wealth of skill for Hiut Denim. Malcolm Gladwell often talks about The 10,000 Hour Rule to achieving mastery. It’s that kind of mastery that makes Hiut Denim so damn good.
In Cardigan, the Grand Masters sew to the soundtrack of #HiutMusic, a user-controlled music playlist that’s powered by their Twitter followers. Fun fact: We hear they love to listen to the Artic Monkeys. Go ahead and send a song their way by tweeting it to #HiutMusic.
So by now you know Hiut makes great jeans, but that’s not the only thing they do well. Check out Clubs, Love, and 11am to get a feel for the creative outlets that they use to curate things and ideas that they love.
One of their most prolific ideas that has become a tool of engagement and authentic storytelling is the History Tag. Each pair of jeans is signed by the Grand Master who made them and comes with a story all its own. The History Tag is designed to track the birth of its creation, through its life with its first owner, and onward as it gets passed on or handed down. You really feel the connection to the maker’s process and to the heart of Hiut. It’s telling you a story and letting you create a forever one of your own.
dirtiest cleanest idea — The No Wash Club — was founded on the belief that “the greenest jean on the planet is the one that you don’t wash.” Decades ago, before the factory shut down, jeans were washed in the river. As a result, the river ran blue and affected the environment tremendously. The washing and ironing of jeans creates an enormous environmental impact, so Hiut dares you to go without washing your jeans for 6 months.
The No Wash Club is not for the faint of heart, and there are rules for those who dare to take the challenge. Thankfully there are some methods to keeping your jeans smelling reasonably acceptable. “After that first wash, you will have one of the most beautiful pair of jeans you will have ever owned. Each crease, each line, will have been put there by you.”
Hiut Denim stands alone in their field, and not just because they live on the Western edge of Wales. David reminds us that “the interesting stuff always happens on the edges.” There’s nothing like a brand who knows exactly who they are and what they stand for. That is our hope for all brands. “I came to understand that things are mostly thrown away not because they stop working, but because people stop loving them,” says David. Cheers to you Hiut, for making things people never stop loving.
David Hieatt fills in the blanks:
I believe in…ideas.
The world would be better if…we trusted our instincts.
Someday I am going to…to take Clare to the Maldives.
I’m not very good at…switching off.
I love…running on Preseli Hills.
When I need a break I…do some farm chores.
I’m most happy when…we’re all at the dinner table having some fun banter.
It bothers me when…we don’t execute a great idea well.
I never thought…I would do yoga.
My motto: Do One Thing Well.
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