10th Anniversary Of Long John Interview
In the new edition of the German magazine J’N’C, I’m celebrating my 10th anniversary in an interview. J’N’C is a magazine for professionals within the denim, and fashion industry.
In the interview I’m talking about how I started back in 2011, I will look back after 10 years of running my online denim magazine Long John, and working as a denim specialist for brands, retail, and denim mills. But, I also talk about how the denim industry changed during the years, and also about the current situation and the future of denim. The full interview can be read here below.
The new J’N’C magazine No. 81 is out now!
10 years of Long John, 10 years of denim development
Wouter Munnichs decided to follow his dream and pursue his passion. And his timing was spot-on: as one of the first blogs to specialise in denim, Long John has become one of the most influential online magazines in the industry. 2021 marks the 10th anniversary of his blog. What better time for a look back to the past and ahead to the future?
Interview: Cheryll Mühlen Photo: Denimhunters / Brian Engblad
Congratulations on 10 years of Long John. What have been your biggest milestones in this past decade?
Thank you very much. Since I started Long John as a sort of a hobby, my biggest milestone is probably sharing my passion and knowledge for the denim industry and actually making a business out of it. I’m very proud to work for the best denim brands, mills and retailers within the industry as a denim specialist nowadays with my online magazine, but also as freelancer.
Your blog is kind of like an archive. What would you say has changed most over the last 10 years?
The overall mindset has changed immensely. Back in the 90s, people started wearing sneakers with a pair of jeans – even at work, which, surprisingly, wasn’t that common back then. But then they also began adding more comfortable pieces to their wardrobes, which also affected the denim industry. At that time, we only had jeans that were quite rigid and stiff. So the stretch quality control is also a big change. People wanted to have the same comfortable feeling when leaving the house. Another thing that’s changed is men’s attitude to fashion. Back when I was working at a Diesel Store, men would come in and ask for nice t-shirt. If I showed them a pink shirt, for example, they would say: “I’m a guy, I don’t wear pink. Give me a grey or blue shirt.” These days there is almost no difference between the styles of tops or even jeans that men and women wear.
Yes, both genders inspire each other, and fashion is becoming less gendered. But I also agree with you on the comfort part. Since the pandemic, consumers have been demanding more comfortable styles. And although the denim industry has started fulfilling this demand, it seems jeans have moved to the edge of the game. What will happen to them post-pandemic?
Denim has been a wardrobe staple since the mid-1850s and that won’t change. Of course some trends will dominate the market temporarily, like chinos 10 years ago. Right now, the combat pant is making a bit of a comeback. But I strongly believe that denim is here to stay, albeit in different forms.
Do you have any insider tips for upcoming denim brands you would recommend us to keep on our radar?
Personally I can recommend Grivec Bros., run by two guys in a really cool denim atelier. They have around 40, maybe 50 different kind of machines to create those authentic pairs of jeans with imported fabrics from Japan. But I also like Blaumann Jeanshosen. The cool thing about them is that they also develop their own fabrics in Germany that are partly locally produced. That’s something we will see more of in the future: locally produced items rather than shipping the cotton from India to Turkey, for their fabrics then to be sent to China, who in turn send the goods to the Netherlands – all for a pair of jeans. That’s crazy and no longer fits the current mindset.
Change, hopefully, comes with knowledge. And knowledge paves the way for sustainability. Do you think that the term sustainability has been overused in recent times?
The first question should always be: what is sustainable? Some people think that simply using organic cotton to make a pair of jeans is sustainable, while others disagree and demand that they at least need to be made in Europe. So it’s quite a difficult topic because you can’t put your finger on it as soon as you can claim that something is not sustainable. You have people who reject clothing that is produced in China and claim it’s bad and not sustainable but are only too willing to purchase the latest iPhone. When it comes to clothing, people have a different mindset. Fantastic products can be produced in China, if they are done right, and they also have great facilities there. It has to be the total package – the employees in the factories have to be treated and paid well. The cotton farmers have to be treated and paid well and so on and so forth. I hope that when we talk about sustainability, we talk about the total chain, not just a small part of it.
Many manufacturers are actually doing a great job these days and have a broad portfolio for brands to choose from with offers that suit their concept and budget. Do you think that they have done their part and now it’s up to the brands, or do you also think that the manufacturers could still be doing more?
The manufacturers are doing a pretty good job at the moment because they are really into changing the industry for the better and asking themselves questions like: how can we reduce water usage and clean the water again, or how can we get rid of the indigo but still achieve that vintage look? These companies are working really hard to make future-oriented fabrics and future-oriented jeans. Sometimes they might even be ahead of their time, which makes it difficult to communicate the story in a way that the consumers can understand. Consumers can be very lazy, after all. They don’t want to read a long text to understand the development of a family farm. No, you have to sum it all up in a tagline and a few keywords. That is a challenge.
Resale is another aspect of sustainable consumption. Why produce new clothes when we can resell the old ones? Do you think this is an easier way for consumers to contribute to a better world? Why is the spotlight suddenly on resale?
Some people say that the best sustainable jeans are the jeans that were made back in the day. And I agree. Back in the 50s or 60s, people would buy one pair of jeans and repair them over and over again. When I look at these jeans, I am reminded of the reason why I collected them in the first place. Not only because of their vintage appeal, but because they are so beautiful. A bit like denim art.
I think the expectations of a good pair of jeans are very high these days and meeting them will be the challenge for brands in the next few years. So let’s look ahead to another decade of Long John – what are your plans?
Many people ask me if I want to produce my own pair of jeans under the Long John name and launch it as a brand. For some this is the holy grail, but not for me, although every now and then I make a special collaboration item. I think, or hope, Long John will be an even more established platform and something like a key point of reference for information and inspiration. I started Long John more as sort of a calling card for myself. But who knows? I am currently working for a lot of clients but could also imagine working exclusively for just a few denim brands, mills or retailers. But whatever the future holds, I strongly believe that if you have a vision, you need to stay true to yourself.