Interview with Roy Slaper of Roy Denim
by Mark Robinson on October 7th 2011
Roy Slaper is a living and breathing reminder that if you have the belief and passion you can create some remarkable items of clothing. We were both incredibly excited to get the opportunity to speak to the creator of Roy Denim. As an absolute artisan, Roy has taught himself nearly everything he knows about creating, so naturally he’s quite an inspiring individual.
In the interview below we get to learn a little more about the journey Roy has taken, and the sacrifices he’s had to make in order to create his fantastic little label. I have to admit we both weren’t expecting him to be as humorous as he was, so perhaps this interview showcases more personality and character than previous conversations with other creatives – read on below and enjoy.
1) Could you explain a little bit about how you got started in making denim?
The idea just came to me and it didn’t seem that unreasonable to make some jeans. I just wanted to see if I could do it. Right away I started buying equipment and meeting people that were willing to bend over backward to help me. I had just lost a job that I was really into and I had plenty of time on my hands and stuff (bicycles, cars, guitars…) to sell to keep the rent paid for the first couple of months in which I would sew constantly. At some point I had to get a job again, but that first three months was key. It was like being incubated.
2) Would you say there was one or a group of individuals that inspired you originally?
Just my friend Tilden. I saw his set up at his house and thought that I had enough room in my apartment to do the same. At the time I had no awareness of denim or jeans. I remembered that Red LInes were collectable from thrifting but I never knew what the red line was all about.
3) It’s amazing that what you’re doing is pretty much an experiment and it’s really inspiring to see that you’re still figuring it all out. What motivates you on a day to day basis to get out of bed and create?
I really don’t know. Its some drive that I have. I get as excited, sometimes, about going to sew at the studio as some people do to go on vacation. Obviously not always, but its what I’m into right now, so its easy to be motivated. Plus, now that I have a small audience that seems to care somewhat about what I make, I really respond to that.
4) You seem to have a really neat selection of sewing machines in your studio space. Do you have a favourite?
Its hard to pick just one, and it does shift around. I don’t, by any means, love them all equally, but each one gets the spotlight on occasion.
5) You must have had to gain a fair amount of knowledge about the machinery in your workshop, what do the older machines give that new technology can’t?
They sew a lot slower and make a better looking stitch. Modern machines are concerned primarily with speed. The older machines are also made from better quality steel, whereas many parts on modern machines are plastic or sub-grade steel and aluminium. The aesthetic factor can’t be ignored either; they look so good.
6) What has the support been like from other brands and stores, has everyone always been positive towards your idea and how do you overcome those who don’t understand what you’re trying to achieve?
Everyone is so supportive. I get the greatest emails from people telling me that I’m doing a great thing, etc. They always want to carry my stuff in their store and I wish I could send it out to everyone, but I can only make so much stuff in a day. So, I have to say no and hope that they still think I’m doing a good thing.
I get a lot of email from people trying to start a brand that need advice. I enjoy answering the questions and trying to calm their exuberance. I’m inferring this, but I think that I’m demonstrating that things can be done a different way than the MBA’s say and people respond to that and want to try too.
7) What are the main techniques that you use when making denim?
Its pretty much design, cut, sew. Each could be expanded upon, but those are the main areas.
8) Could you describe the ultimate pair of jeans in your eyes? If you could use any material, any cut, and weight of denim, what would it be and why?
It seems to change for me on a monthly basis. As soon as I think I know what is good, I learn about more stuff. I like the stuff I make best, but I think that there are too many virtues to limit any one aspect of a pair of jeans to being called “ultimate.”
9) It’s interesting to read you talk of denim creation as a lost art, do feel like in some respects you’re helping people to remember the origins of denim?
Did I say that? Sounds a little pretentious, doesn’t it. I don’t know what other people are getting out of this, other than a nice pair of pants, but I found that in learning about jeans construction I had to uncover so much stuff that people employed in the industry weren’t taught in schools and had no awareness of. Maybe lost techniques is better than lost art.
10) Were there any significant moments along the way when you thought that you’re actually achieving what you set out to? Do you ever get any time to reflect?
Yes, when I did the first order for Self Edge. I called a friend and told him that I had completed my goal and I needed to set a new goal. I was very pleased about it. I don’t ever voice my goals though, so don’t bother asking.
11) Have you ever thought about expanding Roy Denim?, or are you content with making a set run of jeans? Is that what really inspires you?
I believe I’ve heard that the universe is expanding. I guess that I should too, but I can’t get excited about it. I was the paperboy with 27-35 customers at all times; mediocre. I think I must lack ambition. I just don’t see why the classic business model is necessarily correct. I’m mostly interested in making clothing. I should really hire a boss-of-me, or ya know, get married.
12) What would you say to other individuals that might want to make their own product but don’t have any of the so called “know how”?
I get emails every day asking this. I give all the same advice – marry rich… just kidding: I say, “get any sewing machine and start fooling around and learn to control the thing. The rest will come naturally.” No one ever takes the advice.