It’s no secret that we at RYE & RIVET get pretty excited talking about heritage, time, and tradition. So when we heard about Hiut Denim, it’s safe to say that we geeked out a bit–so much so that we’re a little surprised David Hieatt didn’t walk quickly in the other direction. Lucky for us (and you), he agreed to answer our questions about Hiut’s history, plans for the future, and inspirations along the way.
RYE & RIVET: How did you first come up with the “History Tag” idea? Why does the history of items mean so much to you and to the Hiut Denim brand in general?
DAVID HIEATT: Objects tell stories. I have often stared at old tools and wondered about what they got up to before me—I wondered all about the stories they could tell. You know how, when you are peeling off some wallpaper at home and it reveals some really old wallpaper underneath, we wonder who put it there, we wonder when it was put there, and we wonder who the people were? I think people think about that stuff a lot. I think wanting to know the history of things is a deep-rooted human desire. And I wanted to connect that desire for history with a company that wants to make things are going to last. That’s why The HistoryTag is a big idea to me.
This is a moment in time when two roads have come together—one road is called Geek and is all about the Internet and its ability to tell stories. And the other road is called Luddite, and is all about a small bunch of companies that want to make great products that just last and last. Where those two roads meet is where the HistoryTag is. In time, we think many companies will use HistoryTag. It will be a badge of honour for quality. The irony of HistoryTag is that right now it is like an iPod without any music on it. The memories are the music. And it will take time to add those memories—it will take two to three years for it to have meaning for people, but when it does, people will say that it was indeed a big idea.
For us at The Hiut Denim Co., making things that stand the test of time is our way of satisfying our silent shareholder called planet earth. It is clear that making things last is the best thing we can do for a planet with finite resources. And for a company like ours that believes in ideas, that believes in how ideas can change entire industries, it is important that we lead. If you don’t innovate, you have to be happy to follow. We are not happy to follow. So we will be the only jeans company on the planet to have a HistoryTag. It will show your jeans being made. And, if you really get into it, you can update photos of key moments throughout their life. Then, one day, when they get handed down, the memories will go with them.
R&R: We love your “Do One Thing Well” mentality, but it seems like, with such an awesome team, it would be easy to get distracted with other ideas. How do you stay focused?
DH: I have a dog. If I throw him a stick, he will go get it all day long. If I throw two sticks at once, he is torn. Do I go for that one? Or that one? He often gets confused and ends up with neither. I think the great companies are defined by the things that they say no to, and not just what they say yes to. With time being the most precious resource of all, we have to decide what we can do well. We believe we can make a great pair of jeans—that in itself is a huge undertaking. Our town knows how to make jeans. It spent 30-40 years learning that skill. Why on earth would we want to make a bobble cap or a t-shirt?
R&R: Exactly—Hiut denim is made in a town that’s historically known for producing jeans. What do you think that brings to the table that’s different than, say, a company starting from scratch?
DH: We are a start up with over 100 years of experience. In this town, almost everyone knows how to make a jean. If you go for a driving lesson, the driving instructor can teach you how to make a jean as well. Also, we feel like we all have been given a second chance: the town has been given a chance to make jeans again, and Clare and I have been given a chance to go and build a great brand. If you don’t take your second chance in life, then you will never get another one.
R&R: Playing the Devil’s Advocate a bit here, but: Why jeans?
DH: Lots of reasons. I love jeans—I love how they get better with age. I love the geekyness of the different denims. I love how you have your favourites. I love how they are the uniform for the creative man. I love my town. And I love how the people of my town know how to make great jeans.
R&R: Who’s an inspirational icon for you at the moment?
DH: Steve Jobs.
R&R: What’s your drink of choice?
DH: Tea in the morning, water through the day, and a great wine at night. Occasionally a wee drop of single malt whisky.
Thanks again to David for taking the time to talk to us. For more on Hiut Denim, go here.