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One Thing Done Well: Dawson Denim

Our series of brands doing one item especially well continues this month with the Dawson Denim Mercantile Apron

Heritage workwear is a style so seldom taken to task in the relative comfort of the contemporary workplace. Sure, these styles are designed around romantic notions of labour, grit and graft, but they’re rarely ever tested throughout the daily grind. In an oversaturated market of intentionally-distressed, workwear-esque dry goods, Dawson Denim’s wares stand out as the last bastion of the well-made and the unwaveringly authentic.

Hand-cut and sewn by Kelly Dawson and Scott Ogden in their workshop in Brighton, the Mercantile Apron is a particularly glowing example of one thing done well. From the copper rivets to the branded, die-set buttons; from the heavyweight cotton webbing to the hidden Japanese selvedge denim reinforcements, the apron betrays a heritage that stretches back further than Kelly and Scott’s 20 years of experience.

That’s because each apron is made using original 1950’s sewing machines such as the fabled Union Special. Famed for its ability to sew heavy weight fabrics, the Union Special is as coveted in the denim community as it is rare. These machines provide the traditional flourishes that simply cannot be found in modern, mass manufactured goods. It is with the help of these machines that Dawson Denim forge both the 10oz Hickory stripe cotton and 13oz red listed selvedge denim variants of the apron.

The end result is an individually-numbered, hand-logged, one-of-a-kind apron that will make you wish you needed an apron. ‘Back in 2012,’ Kelly and Scott recall, ‘there was no market for these aprons. We thought we might sell a few to the rockabilly scene or the vintage crowd. Instead, we started to sell to coffee shops, which was a completely unfounded market at the time in the UK.’

Now worn by award-winning chefs, baristas and bartenders alike, the diecast branded buttons that adorn each apron are as much a sign of quality as they are a badge of honour. They’re small features, unnoticed by most, but met with nods of knowing, silent kinship from fellow wearers.

The Black Swan at Olstead’s Michelin star-winning Tommy Banks is one such wearer: ‘The craftsmanship is beautiful,’ he says. ‘You wear their aprons and you feel like you’re wearing a safety net. It’s one of those feelings that comes from a well-made item: if you know, you know. If you see someone in an apron like that and you know your denim you’re like ‘pfft. That’s pretty sick.'”

And Kelly and Scott’s own recommendation for one thing done well? The little-known Japanese jewelry-maker and metal-worker, Kiuchi Hand Craft. ‘After a brief and serendipitous meeting in Osaka at a bar one night, Yosuke showed us some of his outstanding work, which we now offer through our Dawson Denim store.’ Meticulously studied and masterfully executed, Kiuchi Hand Craft’s made-to-order offerings are further testament to Dawson Denim’s continued belief that authenticity has to be earned. Detail by detail. Stitch by stitch.

Words by Will HALBERT
Image Credits by Dawson Denim