Companion Denim

Iu sewing, image made with a Zero Image 69 MF

Iu sewing, image made with a Zero Image 69 MF

Close of Barcelona lies a small town called Sabadell, home to a really rather fine college (or so I'm informed), some really nice old buildings and the sort of local life you just don't see in the city itself. Sabadell is also home to Companion Denim, owned and masterminded by Iu Franquesa. As I was in town for WPPD, I decided to contact Iu (who had previously made a pair of custom cotton duck jeans for me) to see if he'd be willing to be photographed by me. Iu graciously agreed, and here are the results.

Hammering, image made with a Fuji GF670

Hammering, image made with a Fuji GF670

For a while now I have wanted to make pictures of people who make things by hand. In part this is inspired by Tim Allen's Artisans project and I really should acknowledge the influence this has had in my work here.

Riveting, image made with a Zero Image 69MF

Riveting, image made with a Zero Image 69MF

Those that know me will also know of my strong interest in fashion, particularly denim and heritage workwear. I'm hoping this shoot with Companion Denim will be a stepping stone to shoots with other similar companies. I have a few ideas of who I want to work with, I guess I just need to ask them.

The workshop, image made with a Fuji GF670

The workshop, image made with a Fuji GF670

Iu fabricates his products with some relatively old machines, including the holy grail, a 1930s Union Special for cable stitching hems. Talking of the Union Special, I watched Iu hem a pair of jeans using this machine, which took maybe 5-10 minutes. A modern machine could do the same job in very short order. Modern speed is not necessarily a good thing, a lot of the character of the hem comes from the roping that the Union Special induces.

At work at the Union Special, image made with a Sigma DP3 Merrill

At work at the Union Special, image made with a Sigma DP3 Merrill

For one, the quality is sure to drop when things are done quickly, and if you want a product to last that's not a good thing. It also means a drop in employment, efficiency might mean profit and cheaper goods, but it means less work and less wages. I guess we have a choice to make, I will continue to support this kind of product versus the mass produced.

At work at the Union Special, image made with a Zero Image 69MF

At work at the Union Special, image made with a Zero Image 69MF

I also am getting increasingly interested in mixing the styles and media I use for a project. This can already be see in The Edge of the World, and it seems like a natural progression to be agnostic to technique here.

Leather work, image made with a Fuji GF670

Leather work, image made with a Fuji GF670

For Iu, this meant being surround by a tripod, pinhole camera, lens-based film camera and a digital compact, all competing for his and his studio's attention. Personally, I like the results this mix of techniques has given me, but I'd really like to know what you think so please do comment below.

Thread, image made with a Zero Image 69MF

Thread, image made with a Zero Image 69MF

I should end with giving huge thanks to Iu for putting up with me for a couple of hours, for making coffee and being generally patient. I greatly enjoyed my time with him, and, having seen his work at first hand, would really recommend you check out Companion Denim if you're looking for a new pair of jeans. 

Brother, image made with a Fuji GF670

Brother, image made with a Fuji GF670

As a final note, all of the film images were made using Kodak Portra 400. I had a brief dalliance with Fuji Pro 400H but really my heart lies with Portra and the wonderful colour palette. Lighting in Iu's workshop was pretty mixed so some of the colour in the scans could have been a little odd. As always though, UK Film Lab did a wonderful job with my images...I cannot recommend them highly enough either.

Making buttonholes, image made with a Zero Image 69MF

Making buttonholes, image made with a Zero Image 69MF