Madison’s Own Denim And Leather

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photo by Andrew Schmidt

He disliked the way store-bought jeans fit and told his wife, “I’m going to make a pair of jeans.”

by Marlee Katz

Nicholas Schmidt’s first ever denim creation has been self-described as “comparable to that of a child’s macaroni craft project.”

Schmidt made his first pair of jeans out of a disassembled pair of his own pants and store bought “denim.” He had absolutely no sewing experience, nor did he know how to use or create a pattern.

Schmidt originally decided to create a pair of jeans as a means of positive recreational activity. He disliked the way store-bought jeans fit and told his wife, “I’m going to make a pair of jeans.”

photo by Andrew Schmidt

After his first attempt at creating custom denim, Schmidt’s wife suggested he buy a pattern and learn how to create better-looking pair of jeans. While Schmidt’s work continually got better, he quickly learned that typical patterns did not fit his body properly. Soon after, he purchased a book on pattern making and began to research selvedge and raw denim. Over some time, Schmidt developed an understanding of how to combine his knowledge of denim with live models.

As he continued to produce jeans, he decided that he wanted to put a leather label on them, and got in touch with leather-worker and friend, Kenton Sorenson. That is where Schmidt’s journey with leather-working began.

Schmidt’s leatherwork is made from vegetable-tanned tooling leather. Everything he creates is done by hand: cut and stitched by himself. Schmidt explains, “Tags turned into belts. Belts turned into wallets. Wallets turned into bags. Bags turned into a whole world of leather goods.” And so his business began.

Schmidt’s first client was one of his brother’s friends who offered to pay for a pair of jeans. After 40 hours of work, Schmidt completed his first sale. He explains the positive feeling of developing a relationship with a customer to create a piece of art.

Making a pair of jeans is a lengthy and particular process. First, Schmidt and the client consult about what type of jeans he or she wants and what materials will be used. Schmidt teaches the client about selvedge denim and jeans in general. Once the clients decides on what kind of jeans he or she wants, Schmidt creates a custom pattern based on the client’s measurements. After ordering supplies, the client comes in for a sloper fitting, in which the client tries on sewn panels of denim for accuracy. During this fitting, Schmidt and the client discuss thread color and style choices. The finished product is completed within the next few days.

In June, Schmidt will be releasing a style of men’s jeans to the public in five different waist sizes. He hopes to meet the needs of people who don’t see custom jeans as a necessity.

A lot of his inspiration comes from friend Kenton Sorenson, who taught Schmidt the basics of the working with leather. Schmidt tries to help make people’s lives “simpler and more authentic.” He values quality and ease in design and wants to share that in the goods that he makes. Each part of the bag or wallet he makes has a purpose and is never disorderly or too complex.

Recently, Schmidt began teaching leather basics and fashion design at the after school club at Toki Middle School. Similar to how this began as Schmidt’s own positive hobby, he hopes to introduce creativity into these students’ lives.

Schmidt showcased his leather and denim work at the UW Fashion Week runway show March 16. Models wore suspenders with their custom made jeans and carried beautifully crafted bags.

Schmidt has been creating custom jeans since late 2009 and began creating leather goods around a year later. He hopes to continue making high quality, thoughtful pieces for clients new and old.

“I get new ideas from seeing things other people make, liking those things, and striving to make them better and more authentic.” Schmidt said.

For more information or to get in contact with Nicholas Schmidt, visit his Facebook.

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