In characteristic fashion, denim master Scott Morrison is entrepreneurially leading the industry (again) with an inspired little shop of large ideas and limited quantity denim for connoisseurs and walk-ins alike.
“I have always loved the sewing detail, the factory experience, seeing how everything is made and total transparency. So, I wanted to put it all behind glass and let people watch it being made right there. The point is to do something beautiful and that no one’s ever seen and in a way that no one’s ever seen.”
What started with four sewing machines in Morrison’s apartment is, as of May, an all-in-one custom denim shop in SoHo. The name, 3×1 (made here) – pronounced “three by one” – is derived from denim’s standard weaving construction (3×1 Right Hand Twill). It’s also a nod to this being Morrison’s third denim line. Regarding the name, Morrison says, “I wanted something intriguing and a little bit obscure. Something that people might stop and think about for a minute.”
With the support of another denim mogul Eric Rothfeld Morrison’s “passion project” is off and running. (So referenced because “it’s not really scalable” and that’s not the intention; it’s about intimacy, exclusivity and quality.) Mondays and Tuesdays are reserved for private appointments; retail hours are Wednesday through Sunday, 11 – 7.
3×1 stocks more than 106 different denims – 60 rolls of which are men’s selvedge, the rest women’s and unisex. Of this wealth no more than 25 pairs of jeans are made per day. And though nearly every detail of each pair is customizable, what’s most notable is the exceptional construction.
“We can do a lot of things that normal factories don’t: stitchless belt loops which have to be hand-threaded, constructed waistbands that you’d see on a Balenciaga pant – not a jean, and slingshot waistbands which also have to be done by hand and are very labor intensive.”
3×1 offers three shopping experiences: Ready-Made, Custom-Made and Bespoke. Ready- Made: Walk in, choose your pair and then customize the buttons and rivets and have an on-the-spot hem before walking out. Ready-Mades are numbered (8/12 for example) and no more than the specified quantity of each will be produced (24 tops). After which the denim is discontinued and a new selection introduced. Custom-Made: Select a style. Women’s jeans are organized by rise and men’s by fit: Standard, Japanese (fuller), Slim (the best-seller) and Men’s Standard with a lower rise. Everything else is customizable: leg shape, back pockets, hardware, thread … Bespoke: 3×1 books just 200 Bespoke appointments per year. In these, the sky’s the limit. Sit with Morrison and the sewer, learn everything you’ve ever wanted to know about denim, design your dream jean and then watch it being born. Reorder from a digitized pattern that 3×1 keeps on file and partake in an experience that you cannot get anywhere else.
The process of creating each jean involves hand-chalking pattern pieces, hand-cutting each pair and a dedicated sewer start to finish. There are no assembly lines; there is one excellently attentive expert for each garment.
“Basically, we’re breaking all of the typical traditions of a normal garment factory. The idea is that it’s probably as beautiful a denim garment as you can get.”
The handful of sewers, cutters and patternmakers came from Morrison’s past – even as far back and his days at Paper Denim & Cloth. They reside in a glass house in the center of the store. Refreshingly, it feels like the creative department rather than a factory.
3×1 is a return to the roots of a career that Morrison has worked somewhat in reverse. He began with the launch of Paper Denim & Cloth, which he calls a “commercial success”. Earnest Sewn was “a brand story” that focused on heritage and turn-of-the-century Americana. EVISU enlisted him to revive the fledgling Japanese premium denim line, but moves to generalization didn’t sit right with Morrison who turned his process inside-out and reinvented in order to demonstrate and preserve rather than imitate or exploit.
As well as representing the factories that are slowly exiting New York’s Garment District, “it’s also a bit of a commentary on the fact that there are a lot of products out there that aren’t up to quality. Possibly due to the consumption of branding, regardless of where or how it’s made.”
The only branding on any pair of 3×1 jeans is an unmarked, minimalist selvedge tab quietly folded under the back right pocket.
“Everyone is going after this economy where it’s more, cheaper, faster. It’s continually driving down the garment business. It seems natural to step back and do one thing really, really well. Let’s reignite or reintroduce people to the process that is unique and beautiful in and of itself.”
“There was no other big master plan other than that this would be a great thing for people to see.”