Livid Jeans: 100% Handmade Scandinavian Denim

During the summer of 2013 photographer Sven Eselgroth embarked on a four month trip around Scandinavia, to meet up with some of the regions most exciting fashion labels. He spent his time interviewing the head designers, documenting their work place and shooting their AW'13 collections. This is the third of four editorials from Sven's trip...
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Livid Jeans is a one hundred percent handmade denim brand. Jens Olav Dankersen founded the brand in Trondheim, Norway in May 2010 with a focussed vision to become the leading custom jeans maker of Scandinavia. Three years down the road, Livid Jeans is introducing online sales of their Handmade Line, crafted with love and care by Jens Olav himself. ''All jeans from the Handmade Line are created locally at our own factory, on old one hundred percent non-automated machinery, which demands that we use our hands a lot at every stage of the production. The machines are old but strong, and they sew beautifully".

Recently, Livid have started a Retail line, which is a collection of denim limited to four hundred pairs. What makes this line a little more special is that the designers will also be running a project called “The Inside Story” in connection with it, which will document each wearer’s journey.


Where are Livid Jeans produced?

Products from our retail line are created in a small family owned factory in Barcelos, Portugal by only five people, and crafted on non-automated industrial machines. Products from our handmade line are made locally at our factory floor in Trondheim, Norway. They've only ever been touched by four hands, and we hand-make them on non-automated industrial machines.

What kind of fabrics do you use?

For our retail line, we only use premium narrow shuttle loom selvage denim and wide loom non-selvage denim from Japan and Turkey. For our handmade line, we use narrow shuttle loom selvage qualities from Cone Mills, North Carolina, USA. Everything we make in-house is cut from Cone Mills denim. Our Japanese fabrics are currently only used in the retail line, but we’re looking into using some here as well. The thing with Cone Mills denim is that it’s a very tight weave, so it takes longer to show signs of wear. The Japanese fabric is a looser weave, so it tends to tear a little more quickly, but when I sell a pair of Livid's, there’s a lifetime guarantee. I’ll repair them for free. If it needs to be sent in, the shipping costs are still in place, but the repair itself is free.

We’re currently doing some washes for our next summer collection, based on a wear-and-tear concept called “The Inside Story”. We’ll basically be replicating true-to-life wear and tear. If one of my friends came in wearing a pair of Livids, and I saw them and thought “I want to reproduce that look”, I would send the jeans to Portugal and they would replicate it. Then we’d take the story of how the garment came to look the way it does, and we’d print it on the inside pocket. Every wash from Livid will have a story behind it, making it a more authentic product. Each wash will have meant something to somebody, and will have taken a long time to create.


Does your brand include designs for women?

We are working on a woman’s fit. It’s actually going to be unisex, so we’re working with some stretch fabrics, because it’s so hard to sell unisex jeans in one hundred percent cotton. We have to use some commercial fabrics as well, with a stretch to them. Not too much, just for comfort, but we will still be using selvage denim. I think it’s impossible to use the same fabrics for women’s jeans as with men’s normally. If a woman prefers a boyfriend fit, our models Jakob and Edvard may do the trick for now.

Why did you decide to make a unisex fit? 

It’s a challenge. Women’s jeans have more curves, and we’re trying not to compromise the fit by trying to get it to work on a male frame too, but I think we’re just going to need to take some time over it. A lot of women want to wear Livid jeans, so we’ve decided to work on it. It’s going to be skinny, or super-skinny for a guy. It’s still in development, so we haven’t tried it on many girls just yet. I think targeting women is very hard because they’re extremely focussed on the fit and the placement of the back pocket. Everything has to be right. I think our marketing technique appeals well to women, but it’s going to be a hard process, I think. I also have male customers who think my current fits are too wide and are looking for a super-skinny.


You currently have three fits: Edvard – the skinny fit, Jakob – the slim straight fit and Roald – the tapered fit. What about custom made garments?

We sell standard sizes on our web-shop and also from our store. We do some bespoke jeans as well, but only for customers who are able to attend a fitting session. The customer tries on a pair in a standard size, and then we do the fitting from that by making various adjustments. Some of our customers want a pair just as they are, because bespoke jeans can be quite expensive. When we make our standards sizes, we are able to cut ten pairs at once, but with bespoke pairs we have to create the pattern from one layer of denim and cut the jeans by hand, then we have to label them, then we go into production, so the process is much longer. When we finish a pair of bespoke jeans, we ask the customer to come in and try them on to see if they’re satisfied with the fit, because if they’re not, we’ll start afresh.

We do the hemming when the customer comes in, so they feel like they can join in with the process and witness the finishing touches. They don’t have to pay until after they’re satisfied, because it’s quite an expensive pair of jeans, so it’s very important to me that the customer is fully satisfied with the product. All our handmade jeans are made to order, so there’s no back-stock. We can make twelve to fifteen orders per week. On our new web-shop, the customer can choose the size, the in-seam measurement and the waist, but they also have to choose a production date, as we’re only able to make a certain number per month.

How would the bespoke option work for people who can’t come to the shop? 

We aren't able to do it. We have to have the whole process of taking the measurements and seeing the fit of the jeans when they’re on, because it’s so hard to make it right if the customer isn't here. When you buy a product at this kind of cost, I think you’d want to make it right, because the shipping is quite expensive as well. To the US it’s five hundred kroner, so we pay three hundred and the customer pay two hundred.

To read the rest of this interview, go to A Casual Man