Oi Polloi

Interview: Fraser from Hawksmill Denim Co.

Published: Fri Aug 28 2015

Hawksmill Denim Co. is a new name to Oi Polloi. As their name suggests, they make things out of denim, and as you might expect, most of these denim things are jeans.

Always keen to hear the story behind the stuff we sell, we tracked down one of Hawksmill’s founding fathers — a man named Fraser Trewick — and pestered him for an interview. Like a true gentleman, he obliged. 

Read on to find out about his humble origins, his penchant for Cone Mills denim and his thoughts on Japanese jacquard machines…

First things first, how’s it going?

Things are going pretty well at the moment thanks! We're just delivering our first season, and are very proud to be stocked in such prestigious stores as Oi Polloi!

What is Hawksmill Denim Co.? 

We're a British based premium denim brand founded by myself and Anthony Smith. We make contemporary fits but adhere to authentic manufacturing techniques using vintage machinery.

The name sounds pretty regal, where does it come from?

After about two years of racking my brain, the name came to me out of the blue. I've since discovered there was an actual mill of that name in Suffolk which is a nice attachment to the past.

Where abouts are you based?


What led you to starting a denim company? 

I've always had an interest in denim since I was a teenager. In the 80s it was a big thing to buy vintage Levi’s, and I soon noticed that some of the jeans I was buying were of far superior quality to others. With a little research I discovered that these were the jeans that were made before the age of mass production — they tended to have a capital E on the red tab and were made from selvedge fabric. 

That was when my love affair with denim began and it's always been an aspiration to create my own label.

You worked as a shop assistant in the legendary Duffer back in the early 90s. Have you got any good stories from back then? 

The time I spent working at Duffer in Soho had a bigger influence on me than anywhere else I've worked — it was where I did my apprenticeship. At that time casualwear and sportswear were in their infancy and how Duffer travelled the U.S. for deadstock trainers is now the stuff of legend.

At one point we were buying up Puma States from Topman on Oxford Street, putting fat laces in them, and wholesaling them for three times as much to the Japanese market. There was that much of gap between mainstream fashion and what was happening at Duffer.

You also worked at Nudie. What did you do there… and more importantly, what did you learn there? 

I was the U.K. Agent for Nudie for nine years. We grew the company together from nothing to what it is today. In some ways it had the same spirit as Duffer. It was an independent brand with an uncompromising idea of what it wanted to achieve.

I think that is a very important part of a successful brand, and that ultimately it's about focusing on what you do best and ignoring what everyone else is up to.

You use Cone Mills denim. What is it about this stuff that you like? 

Before I began Hawksmill I worked for a while with a denim factory in Bristol, Tennessee. As part of the project I was lucky enough to visit the Cone Mills White Oak plant in North Carolina. It's the last place left in the U.S. manufacturing selvedge denim, and is currently celebrating its 110th anniversary.

For me it's where everything started and seemed an obvious choice when selecting fabrics for Hawksmill.

I think a lot of stuff to do with fancy dry denim can intimidate some people. Should they wash them? Should they not wash them? Should they cryogenically freeze them? Can you clear up any of this stuff? What do you do with your jeans?

There is no set way to wear in denim. Wearing jeans in from dry and not washing for six months is only possible with sanforized (pre-shrunk) material. You can achieve great fades from wearing in from dry but it can also lead to the fabric breaking and not lasting as long. I'd rather leave it for the wearer to decide what's best for them.

Does it matter whether jeans use selvage denim or not?

It is possible to replicate the character of selvedge denim on wide looms. However in our opinion it is never quite the same. For example, at Cone Mills the Draper looms are mounted on an old wooden floor which is separate to the rest of the mill. The result is that the looms bounce up and down and this gives the fabric a particular character when it's woven. 

There are a lot of denim obsessives out there. Why do you think people go so mad over jeans? There doesn’t seem to be as much of a cult around khaki trousers (although maybe I’m wrong?).

I'm not aware of any khaki obsessives but I'm sure there are plenty. I think denim becomes obsessive for people because the wearer is involved in making their own mark on the jeans. Each pair reflects the personal experience of the owner and no two pairs end up the same.

Are you one of these denim obsessives? How many pairs of jeans do you own?

I have owned a lot of jeans over the years but no I'm not an obsessive collector. I like wearing them too much.

Which Hawskmill item are you most proud of? And why? 

Our Japanese dot stitch selvedge is interesting. A jacquard machine is attached to either side of the loom which creates the unique dot selvedge. It is only possible to manufacture 20 metres a day.

I think I’ve asked quite a few denim questions now. What do you get up to outside of running an up-and-coming denim company? 

I collect old 45 records. Mainly 50/60s psych, soul and garage. It's been a lifelong obsession. I had to stop collecting LPs as most of the spare room in my house is full of them.

Have you seen any good films lately? 

I watch a lot of films but I guess I'm most influenced by British cinema. The late 60s film Bronco Bullfrog was a big inspiration for our first collection shoot. We used a lot of locations around south east London including Greenwich tunnel which is used in the film.

See the Hawkmill stuff here