Nestled in the narrow streets of Cincinnati, Ohio’s Over-the-Rhine (one of the largest historic neighborhoods in the United States) a movement is taking place. Not so much a movement as a change – of jeans, one leg at a time. Modeled after the time-honored process of making denim, the team behind Noble Denim and Victor is seeking to create the perfect pair of jeans and American sportswear.
Chris Sutton, one of the founders of Noble Denim started hand-making jeans emphasising both detail and quality in 2012. Sutton had spent years honing in the fit of the jeans and personally made the first 200 pairs. Sutton continues to make many of Noble prototypes and samples in their Cincinnati Workshop with the support of a growing team not only for Noble Denim but a line of sportswear under the Victor name.
In 2013, Sutton met with a partner factory in Tennessee. The experience of working with the manufacturer opened the eyes of Noble Denim creators as to how the widespread movement of overseas production has impacted factories in the United States, especially in rural areas. Danny Swafford, owner of the partner factory once employed over 150 people two decades ago. After most of Swafford’s clients moved their production outside America, his staff was down to four people. Coupled with Sutton’s personal passion for sewing, Swafford realised the much bigger purpose of re-employing the expert craftspeople that used to make America’s clothes.
Sustainability is at the root of Noble Denim— tracing the material for Noble Denim jeans and sportswear pieces in any of their products back to the organic farmer who grew the cotton in the US. The cotton is sourced from Cone Mills White Oak in Greensboro, North Carolina, dating back to 1891. Cone Mills directly gathers the cotton and oversees the knitting process. At this site, sweatshirts for Noble Denim and Victor Athletics are sewn in the same factory that has been making Noble’s jeans for the last several years. It is almost an entirely vertically integrated system giving the Noble team an unprecedented transparency to their product, focusing on organic material and paying fair wages.
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In 2014, the team was discussing how to continually give their factories more work. The factories worked with (especially their partner factory in Tennessee) are small and dependent on the brands they work with. Always striving to give the factories more work, and yet wanting to keep Noble’s original essence of limited-edition items, the team was resistant to expanding their production for Noble Denim:
“We kept hearing from people that they wanted to buy US made clothing but couldn’t afford the price point of our jeans, and we knew that we couldn’t make our jeans any cheaper. It just wasn’t fitting together. To stay true to Noble’s small-batch nature, we realized that we couldn’t generate the extent of change (in regards to increasing US Manufacturing) we wanted with just Noble. And that was really discouraging.” (Co-founder and CEO, Abby Sutton)
Finally taking a step back and seeing a gap: customers approached Noble Denim stating they are ready to buy US made clothing at a more accessible price and wished factories desperate for the opportunity to create these products to grow again. After realizing this gap, the Suttons wanted to create a new brand for men and women that could be more accessible for customers. This was the beginning of Victor.
With the resurgence of hand-made, artfully created products, Noble Denim and Victor exemplify simple, American clothing that will stand the test of time.
Victor makes vintage-inspired, athletic wear sold directly to the customer (no third party stores) offering a US-Made, organic sweatshirt at the same price as a product from J Crew. For Victor, the team developed 2 custom organic materials, in addition to other materials used in production. The backbone of most sweatshirts is a French terry, made from Texas Organic Cotton, knit in North Carolina and sewn in Tennessee at the same partner factory as many of the custom-order jeans while Noble Denim sources primary organic indigo dye from Japan.
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With the help of a backbone team including Sam Wessner (Co-Creative Director), Christman Hersha (Director of Operations), Alex Hatcher (Store Manager), Alex McEntire (Seamstress), Renee Kohl (Graphic Design & Retail) Noble Denim and Victor occupied a 19th-Century storefront at 1405 Republic St. in Cincinnati’s trendy Over-the-Rhine neighborhood. With a scent of blood orange, cypress and fig, custom candles from Joya Candles in Brooklyn, New York accent the newly renovated space.
The inspiration behind the store was to give an insider look into the brands with a sewing workshop at the store, where the team creates custom hems and makes in-house products and samples. The space is a melding of the two brands boasting mid-century modern furniture and unexpected elements like green tile, painted green floors and stucco walls giving the store a modern, clean feel reminiscent of a craftsman’s workplace.
With solid concepts in motion, the team now focuses on core products. Noble Denim’s main product is the men’s raw, selvedge jeans in two fits, the Earnest Slim Straight and the Truman Regular and released their first women’s jeans on June 18. Noble will be releasing a denim jacket and chinos in fall 2016 while Victor recently released a brand new link of tees and tanks. Victor also releases small batches of limited edition colors of their products each month.
With the resurgence of hand-made, artfully created products, Noble Denim and Victor exemplify simple, American clothing that will stand the test of time. This time-honored concept, coupled with modern sustainable practices gives customers worldwide the best of American-made casual fashion at an affordable price.
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