Buying ethically sourced quality denim jeans has always been a priority for me. In East London there is a great clothes shop called Son of a Stag that holds similar values. The shop is off Brick Lane, in The Old Truman Brewery opposite Rough Trade Records.
The aesthetic inside the shop oozes a deep history and love of denim. One wall has a couple of shelves dedicated to the curious Buddy Lee Dolls that were made for marketing the Lee jeans brand from the 1920s onwards. They are rare giant-headed dolls mostly clad in denim, and only feature as a collection in a handful of stores worldwide.
Son of a Stag is like a museum, with the clothing for sale merchandised among original props and garments from more than a century ago. They stock the biggest collection of Japanese and American brands – even bigger than you would find in a good Japanese retailer. The store also displays a few examples of the 160 or so vintage sewing machines they own.
Chief Executive Rudy Budhdeo is passionate about his business. “We believe our product choice on jeans, work wear, and boots is absolutely second to none,” he said. “We also give a great customer experience and that comes from our team actually having a passion and great knowledge in the products we sell.” His mission is to “serve the best denim and boots”.
The helpful team in the shop consists of Tom Burke, Scott Cook, Alex Natt, and Linda Rieswick. On-site they provide hem fixing and denim repair services using an old Union Special 43200G. Setup with tensions and special formulas of threads that they believe are unique to them.
The staff taught me a few things about denim, including the ONI 507 Secret Denim 20oz jeans. They are characterised by their low tension, irregular weave. With a slubby hand, ONI denim is masterfully produced by just one Fii San (old man) hand adjusting the loom.
Rudy is clear about his ethical standards for acquiring denim. “We are very much focused on getting amazing products which are made in an ethical manner,” he said. “We would consider stocking products made off-shore and places including China, India, Bangladesh, etc., but only if we were given sufficient information on the factories, since we would want to verify beyond reasonable doubt that there wasn’t unethical practices.” His main concern is places that use child labour and the mistreatment of workers.
Rudy has visited factories in countries such as China, the USA, Japan, Portugal, Germany, Italy, Turkey, and England. Says Rudy of his business travels to China: “I have seen a factory in China that was amazing. The staff were happy and it was obvious that this was not an act. The product was great and I see no reason why I would not buy from them. Sadly, I have also seen factories where things were obviously covered up for my visit.”
The exceptional factory in China did charge more, but Rudy is willing to pass up other business opportunities to pay that price for ethical standards.
More information about Son of a Stag can be found on their shop website: www.sonofastag.com