I should confess to having something of a love/ hate relationship with the Malaysian denim scene. On the one hand I have encountered a couple of shady characters who seem to be only interested in their profits and think nothing of blatantly stealing other peoples designs or using the ideas and work of others for their own gain, this isn’t unique to Malaysia but this is where I personally have seen it. On the other hand the real denim scene there is one of the fastest growing and populated by some of the most genuine people you could possibly hope to meet and the MyDenim community has a fantastic, family feel that is sorely lacking in many of the hollow and hallowed cathedrals of denim elsewhere. If anything, Malaysia (and also Indonesia) are perhaps the next frontier for denim, where enthusiasm and thirst for knowledge, along with an influx of wealth into the region, are driving the market on. As with many other expanding areas of quality denim before them it is no surprise that Malaysia is now starting to see the emergence of a domestic manufacturing scene, I saw this a couple of years ago myself in Indonesia and know that if it is approached in the right way it can yield impressive results. So when my fellow DHQ writer Amir asked me to take a look at some domestic denim with which he is intimately familiar and give my opinion I was honoured to do so.
I will start by saying that Royal Works are not a company that I know much about, so far from traditional style I will skip the history lesson and introduction of the brand and stick with the facts that I do know. They are an extremely small scale jeans company based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, their jeans are made hands on by the people who run the brand using vintage machines and their jeans arrive in a rather nice linen bag. The absence of other information is not a negative to me here as it will allow me to concentrate on what is important, the jeans themselves, without being told about the origin and weight of the denim, or the dyeing process, or the brand concept and influences I can get into the details and feel of the product itself without preconceptions or expectations. So without further delay, lets take a look at the jeans.
The first thing to notice is that the denim is dry and stiff, heavily starched and very tightly woven giving a uniform finish and smooth surface to the denim, but without the sheen of further post process, this leads me to believe that it is most likely one washed rather than sanforised. I would be amazed if the origin of the denim is anything other than Japanese, probably Kaihara and the weight I would estimate at 12 – 14oz (looking forward to seeing if I got any of that correct when I speak to Amir). The colour depth and variation of the denim is also interesting and distinctly Japanese, coupled with the tight weave it should yield some really nice results with wear, so on the denim side of things I am pleased and they certainly feel like a premium pair of jeans.
The stitch quality and build is also done to a good standard, with no more loose ends than I would expect to see on a pair of high end Japanese or American jeans (that is to say that there aren’t many at all). The inseams are double stitched, the hems are chain stitched and reinforcement is provided in all the places which you would expect via the use of constructional stitching and rivets, some hidden and some not. The hems are chain stitched so roping will become a factor of wear which many educated denim enthusiasts expect to see as standard, I have been surprised by the amount of newer brands who seem to neglect this most basic of details. So far so good then, material is great and the stitching likewise, now onto what isn’t so good.
I do have a few gripes when it comes to these jeans, chief amongst which is the quality of the hardware, this is a simple thing which so many brands get horribly wrong. The buttons look fine, I really like the fact that they are using plain donut buttons to keep with the plain and basic aesthetic, but they feel cheap and flimsy. I am told that the brand are aware of this and have addressed it for future production runs which I sincerely hope is the case. The other points are really just a matter of personal taste more than anything else, I am not a fan of exposed rivets on back pockets and these jeans have one, I know that some will see it as nothing more than a design differentiator but to me having one exposed rivet just looks a bit….weird I guess. I am also not a fan of exposed selvedge on a coin pocket, and you guessed it these jeans have that too, for me it’s not a deal breaker and I know that some people really like it (and on the fly), I’m also aware that even prestigious brands like Samurai use it on some of their models but it’s just not my thing, I find it too showy. My wife and I spent a good few minutes debating the merits of the visible selvedge (she is a fan and I am not), we did this whilst our 8 year old was giving his new jeans a tub soak upstairs, this is the kind of household that I live in. What I haven’t got to yet though is what is, in my opinion, the hardest thing to get right about a pair of jeans and Royal Works have hit the bulls eye first time around.
Many great denims exist, and more are being made by mills all over the world every day and anyone can buy a great denim fabric by contacting one of these mills and placing an order, it is that simple. Making jeans is not a black art either, obviously standards and skills vary as they do with anything but you can learn the skills or find the skills and pay to utilise them, hardware can be sampled and bought from places which are found to be most agreeable in terms of quality and price point and details on a pair of standard five pocket blue jeans are a fairly small list to choose from, so what makes the creation of jeans tough? What separates the well made but average from the jeans that make you want to wear them daily? For me it is unquestionably the cut, how the jeans fit the human body is the hardest thing to get right and probably the most important thing in making a good impression on your customers.
To provide an example of my belief I give you the case of the Samurai S710XX and the S110j (Jin model). The Samurai Jin was one of the first jeans I really lusted after, the denim was incredible and the detailing was so different to most other jeans around at the time (they have since changed the denim), that I had to have them. I bought them and a pair of S710’s which I got a good deal in, but wasn’t expecting much from, basically I bought them because they were cheap and seemed to be popular with Samurai fans. When both pairs arrived I quickly learned why so many people wore the 710’s and virtually no-one seemed to have the Jins, the 710 has a totally flattering fit which really makes the wearer enjoy wearing them, they give you a defined shape without being super skinny and maintain a very masculine silhouette. By contrast the amazing denim of the Jins was soon forgotten when I found the cut to be loose, sloppy and shapeless, not loose as in a vintage 50’s cut more like loose and cheap sweat pants. The Jins remain my greatest denim disappointment.
Royal Works should not worry about their cut though as it is one of the best I have tried, from anyone. It is fitted in the right places and relaxed in others giving defined shape to the wearer whilst preserving modesty and staying masculine. It is comfortable and just the right mix between contemporary and classic, for the cut alone I would buy these jeans and for the cut alone I will wear these jeans in my regular rotation, not something to be taken lightly as I am extremely particular about what goes on my legs on a regular basis. Again, it is the cut which makes me want to see how these jeans evolve and it is the shape which makes me think that they will turn out really well with wear. I will keep you all updated here through DHQ and hope to provide a little more information about Royal Works in an upcoming piece including whether I was right about the denim, and where you can actually buy a pair of these things. In summary, the jeans are as good as I have tried for a basic five pocket pair, the basic are all there and in place with far more positive points than negative.Good job Royal Works, if you have sorted out the hardware issue then I would have no hesitation in telling folks that these jeans are definitely worth a look.