The man behind one of our newest brands sits down to talk about his new collection of denim and outerwear. Meet Jude Neale.
After 26 years designing for private denim labels, Jude Neale has created his own collection grounded in rejecting trends and taking the road less traveled. With both a background in textiles and design he has crafted a denim line who’s finely crafted fits can only be matched by the beauty of its fabric. Dutil has just launched his collection in stores and online, and we sat down with him to pick his brain on his new collection, and how he designs his jeans.
Dutil: I read that you had 26 years of craftsmanship and experience. Can you tell me a little about that and your journey?
Jude Neale: I started out in the Textile world very young. Graduating with a degree in Physics and not being able to pursue a career in nuclear physics I jumped at the first opportunity to work as a technical intern in the Textile research & development division of the Firestone Tire Co. From there I went on to manage a large composite Textile mill in Asia. Mastering Spinning, weaving, dyeing and apparel production, I eventually moved to Vancouver and began working with major denim retailers in North America. My affinity for creative work with denim drew me to Los Angeles where I established a manufacturing base for handcrafted jeans and honed my washing and processing skills with some of the world's best denim laundries.
Dutil: You have mills in Italy, Turkey, Japan, and the United States. How did you go about selecting the mills for the denim for your jeans?
Jude Neale: My work involved a craft that deals with couture artisanal product. Building small batch production lots of exceptionally well-built merchandise was at the core of my collection, I had to work only with mills that shared my values and had the technical capability to translate what I had in mind. With 27 years of working in the field I had forged strong business relationships, it is from this pool of resources coupled with my extensive technical background that made it easy for me to identify and partner up with some of the world’s best denim mills.
Dutil: For 20 years you worked with private denim labels. You left because you wanted creative freedom; you wanted to reject trends and forge your own way. What are you currently doing that is off the beaten path?
Jude Neale: I still design and manufacture for some of the largest denim houses in Canada and the USA. I just ventured out with my bespoke collection into space which I felt was vacant. I founded Jude Denim because I was tired of seeing an average pair of jeans made to look like it was something that it was not. It all started when I was hard-pressed to find a good denim sport blazer, all I could find were versions of the traditional classic western yoke-style jackets. I felt denim was being boxed in. So I designed my own collection starting with 3 sport blazers all from custom-designed denim fabrics and complemented these with a collection of pants that also challenged the traditional sense of denim. My collection is an authentic expression of a denim purist reaching beyond the limited aspect of denim as a casual garment and crossing over to contemporary luxury style. I believe that the potential for denim to go beyond casual classic is underestimated and denim can be much more than just a pair of traditional jeans. I intend to explore that side of denim that purists don’t dare to consider.
Dutil: What inspired you to get into the fashion industry, and why denim?
Jude Neale: Fashion just happened to me, I did not choose it. It was always there. Once it happened I just fell in head over heels with denim. Denim to me was like a large blank canvas upon which I could write my stories. With every style, I am writing a new story.
Dutil: What is your creative process? How do you start and what are the steps along the way?
Jude Neale: It’s hard to put the creative process down to a fixed set of steps, in fact, the moment you define the process, it no longer becomes creative. I work with emotions and feelings, my designs start out with a live model and a few photographs, pairing fabrics, colours, and rough style concepts. There is a lot that I take in before I create a blueprint. From there my team works to create colours, textures, and concepts that would fit with my vision. I am averse to following any trends or fashion forecasts but that does not mean I don’t study the market place. I am inspired by current events, architecture and the world around me. However, there is no specific planned path that I would take to arrive at what I do. I just let things unfold from moment to moment.
Dutil: What makes a good pair of jeans a great pair of jeans?
Jude Neale: If a pair of jean enhances your personality and lets you express more of yourself through a perfect fit and an original style then that makes for a great pair of jeans. If it makes you feel and look like a million bucks then the work is done.
Dutil: One thing I have not seen before and interested me was how you match your jeans pH with that of the human skin. What process do you do to make sure the fabric is the correct pH? Does washing the jeans change this?
Jude Neale: In the final rinse and softener process we use neutralizing agents that balance the acid and or base levels of the wash bath and then lab test the process until we reach the perfect balance for the human skin levels. Washing the jeans at home will not change this as home washing does not involve concentrated chemistries besides the last rinse cycle in all in-home consumer laundries will be a water wash rinse which is of a neutral PH and does not affect anything.
Dutil: What is next for Jude Neale?
Jude Neale: Our styles will continue to evolve and begin to pull away slowly from mainstream fashion. We are focusing on combining technology and performance with couture fashion. Do we believe our styles must be functional, comfortable, flattering and compelling?
This fall we will be introducing an expansion to our Infinity range with Infinity+. This technology will feature all our infinity colors and for the first time include Infinity+ White. This is a white which will not yellow or fade over time and the plus features water repellency and stain release. Our technology features will be combined with style and design concepts that will lead rather than follow.
Working with so many brands I have seen a fair bit and if there is one thing that I have learned, it is that I would rather risk-taking the lead than to be in someone’s rearview mirror.