Christophe Loiron: Another View of Denim

Vintage clothier shuns conspicuous consumption.

Christophe Loiron

During a day marked by lifelong friendships, numerous mutual admiration societies and nearly nonstop consensus, Christophe Loiron, owner of Los Angeles vintage store Mister Freedom, spoke out as a contrarian voice at the WWD Denim Forum.

This story first appeared in the May 18, 2011 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

After François Girbaud’s sobering presentation on the denim industry’s impact on the environment, Loiron’s first charge to the audience was to urge them to sell raw jeans that haven’t been treated with any chemicals and urge attendees to oppose the media’s practice of supporting conspicuous consumption by chasing and reporting new trends.

In a way, Loiron was pointing to the dichotomy in the denim industry between those who value authenticity and the craftsmanship of the past and those on the lookout for the next big trend, the next big process and the next opportunity to promote sales of products that consumers might not really need.

Loiron seemed to call for a spare wardrobe based on the necessities.

“You don’t need 1,300 pairs of jeans,” he said. “You don’t need this and that. You only need three [pairs].”

Practicing what he preaches, Loiron, who produces a label called MFSC Naval Clothing Tailor and another line in partnership with Tokyo-based Toyo Enterprises’ Sugar Cane & Co., displayed a pair of jeans from Sugar Cane that had been worn for two-and-a-half years to achieve subtle whiskers on the front.

Going against the trend to build a lifestyle brand, Loiron said he simply sells clothes, in addition to shoes, accessories, textiles and books dating from the 19th century to the Sixties.

“I don’t sell lifestyle with my clothes,” he said. “I hope people don’t need clothes to forge a lifestyle.”

When designing, Loiron said he comes up with a story, such as that of a 1936 merchant navy sailor. “I’m influenced by fashion, but the fashion is revisited by movies,” he said, citing Hollywood hunks such as Paul Newman.

When an audience member reminded Loiron that Girbaud’s presentation noted that 6 billion pairs of jeans are produced each year worldwide, Loiron responded, “Do you think those 6 billion pairs are personally needed? I don’t think they are.”

Loiron’s parting advice to the crowd of denim designers, manufacturers and retailers was: “Enough already.…Just make good [jeans]. Don’t make crappy ones.…It’s disposable stuff — Kleenex. Don’t do that anymore.”