Exclusive Interview – 10 Questions for Warp & Weft’s Devin Leisher, Mehdi Ahmadi, and Anders Helseth
While it’s been some time since our last interview, we’re excited to have our second Q&A be with the ambitious and very talented trio taking their passion in denim to the next level - Devin Leisher, Mehdi Ahmadi, and Anders Helseth
For those unfamiliar with the guys, they are the team behind Warp & Weft: A Denim Documentary - an upcoming film (and successful Kickstarter project!) that dives head first into the world of raw and selvedge denim and surrounding underground culture.
But who really are the guys behind the lens, what’s compelled them to embark on this adventure, and who can we expect to see in the documentary? Read on…
RD: What’s your guys’ background and story?
DL: Mehdi and I both met last spring when I got a job working at the same video production company as him. Before getting into film, I was an audio designer and engineer, and prior to that I was a musician and supplemented income by working at music stores.
MA: I was born in Iran but grew up in the DC area. I had a pretty normal childhood and wasn’t really into theater or acting in high school, I was more of a nerd because I thought I wanted to be a doctor back then.
AH: My first encounter with Japanese denim was with the Evisu brand, which I first noticed in the breakdance scene while travelling around in Europe.
If I remember correctly, I first spotted Japanese break dancers wearing it in early 2000s. First I found out more about that brand, and through it gained interest in Japanese denim. I really like the aspect of how the jeans are made, and the complexity and labor involved in making them.
What they make involves skill and craftsmanship, and is done largely by hand, using machinery from a different era. I really have respect for the dedication behind it.
RD: Why raw denim? What is it to you?
DL: Raw denim started out as a project for me. I liked the raw, dark look, and I was excited to watch it evolve and take on a new life the more I wore it. The whole process has evolved for me though. Initially I was just concerned about fades.
Then, after two years and two pairs of “starter raws”, I started getting into selvedge, and then became very interested in dying techniques and vintage details. To me, raw denim is living art and although I wear the same pair every day, it’s never the same pair twice.
MA: I am a novice when it comes to raw/selvedge denim. Before I met Devin I thought I was cool wearing my Diesel jeans, but now I’m excited to learn more and discover my favorite pair.
AH: I like the idea of how a raw pair of jeans moulds with you and develops into something unique. That may sound like a cliché answer, but that’s how it is for many denim enthusiasts I guess. I also like how two pairs of the same jeans may turn out very differently depending on the wearer, especially in regards to how they wear them, how they treat it, and also what climate they’re wearing it in.
Everything shows on the denim. The raw denim is somehow imbued with the character and personality of the wearer, making it personal, which is kind of the opposite of what you get with a pair of pre-distressed jeans.
RD: What are you favourite pair of raw denim yourselves?
DL: Well, my favorite pair that I own are my currents pair – the Self Edge and Dry Bone’s collab, SExDBxSxS12. This is my second pair of Dry Bones, but I am looking to branch out after I’m done with these in a year or so.
AH: When it comes to jeans, right now it’s my Studio D’Artisan SP013 (30th Anniversary pair); and when it comes to denim jackets it’s my Evisu MiJ 1507.
RD: How did you guys get into film making and raw denim?
DL: Filmmaking was a natural progression for me. I have a strong background in art, from there moved on to music, then to graphic design and now film. For me, film is the ultimate media because it is literally a culmination of all my interests rolled into one.
Art is composed in every shot, music can make or break a scene, graphics and design bookend the film entirely. I enjoy being creative and for me the more creative outlets I have, the better. I seem to always have something going; it’s probably the self-entertaining only-child in me.
MA: Growing up I thought I wanted to be a doctor and I was even a pre-med student for a bit in college but I always had a passion when it comes to movies too, so when I got a job at a video production company 10 years ago that was the end of my medical career.
I got more involved with making independent films as I came across people like Devin who are as passionate as I am about making films.
AH: I got into the W&W project through hearing about it from Beatle on SuperFuture. I just felt the passion of Devin and Mehdi of Innerface Films, and understood they wanted to contribute greatly to the raw denim community.
Likewise, I got into this project because of the same passion for denim, and wanting to contribute. I’m really happy to be on board as a part of the team, and as the main presenter. I also try to be actively involved as much as possible (I’m in Norway, and they’re in the U.S.), and have giventhem access to my research.
RD: Is there a specific inspiration behind Warp and Weft?
DL: Initially, Warp and Weft started as a motion version of the “Evo” thread on Superfuture. A lot of people post amazing (and not so amazing) pictures of how their jeans have evolved on this site. The Evo thread is something I frequent almost every day, but I always end up wishing there was more.
Too often there is a beautiful looking pair that can only be captured with a crappy cell phone camera, and sometimes great details are lost from various reasons. Occasionally people get their pitchforks up about editing photos and this and that, which can be amusing.
I wanted something that would put these pairs on a level playing field, and everyone could be able to see all these details from many angles and consistent lighting. Everyone on SuFu knows that seeing a great evo picture is immediately outdone once they see the pair in person, and since SuFu is a global meeting place a lot of people will never get that chance.
Since its initial concept, the film has grown to something much deeper. The more I told people about the film, the more they looked at me like I was crazy.
So I thought to myself, “Yeah, I suppose a lot of us enthusiasts are” because it is a very unique interest, even though denim is the most popular article of clothing on earth next to underwear. A large bit of the film will focus on the “why and how”. I figure there has to be some similarity in us that makes us obsess over details, and take the long way around a room just to check someone’s hem or back pockets.
AH: Firstly, raw denim is the soul of the project, then there’s the excuse to gather as many denim heads together as possible and just let some magic happen. I really want this movie to be a resource for the denim community on many levels, for veterans and beginners alike.
RD: Who are you planning to interview in the documentary?
DL, MA: There are numerous Superfuture users that are coming out to be interviewed and have their denim filmed. The three main heavy hitters from Superfuture are RingRing, Beatle and JimmyC. I have a feeling RingRing will just blow our minds.
Beatle and JimmyC should be a lot of fun especially since they are partners in a shirt company called “DoubleXX”, but because they are on separate continents they do not get to see each other very often. We will also be interviewing Kiya Babzani from Self Edge, Gordon Heffner from Blue in Green, Andrew Chen from 3sixteen, Roy Slaper from Roy denim, Lynne Downey from the Levi’s archives, Spencer from Unionmade, and possibly Carl Chiara formerly of Levi’s and now of Unionmade.
One neat thing about this project has been the discovery of many very small denim companies and recent startups that have contacted us. We will be hearing from Luke Davis of Hartford Denim Company, Stephen Dang from Railcar Fine Goods, Mike Hodis from Rising Sun & Co., Daniel Feldman from Feltraiger, Ashley James from Ruell and Ray, and a few others.
RD: Anyone you are particularly nervous and/or excited to speak with?
DL, MA: To be honest we’re really just excited about everyone! We’ve never even been able to participate in a SuFu meetup of any size, so the fact that we’ll be talking with all these people who share the same passion, not to mention the people who made the game, are in the game, and eventually decide the game is a really cool thought to us.
We’re mostly nervous about the RingRing interview. He’s been around forever, and there seems to be a lot of mystery surrounding him, it’s a little hard to dig up info on him. He’s just on a whole ‘nother level.
AH: I’m not really involved in that aspect of things. All and any of the participants are interesting to me.
RD: One of the questions you’re planning to explore with Warp & Weft is what makes a perfect pair of denim. What do you guys think qualifies a pair of denim as the “perfect pair”?
DL: For me right now the perfect pair is a heavy ounce denim with a nice chain stitch at the bottom. The rest is up to you. How it fits and how it fades is perfect as long as it’s yours; and I happen to like my fits and fades quite a bit so I suppose I’m lucky in that regard!
AH: Something with a lot of soul in it. You can see the amount of “love” that’s put into a pair through the lengths people go at to keep them going; such as DIY repairs, patching and darning, and stuff along a similar vein. I also really enjoy seeing well developed atari’s, but I’m not really into very contrasty stuff; however, that’s personal taste.
Moreover, details have to be spot on, and there should be minor irregularities and imperfections; in other words, a perfect pair to me is a hand made, labor of love pair of jeans.
RD: What do you hope the viewer walks away from Warp & Weft with?
DL, MA: We would like everyone to be reminded of the passion that goes into these garments. Although it is a growing industry, ours is still a very small, niche industry in terms of these particular garments. We just want people to see how crazy we all are for this stuff.
We’d also like both newcomers and veterans of the “scene” to both get something out of the film. When you start getting into this world it’s really easy to get overwhelmed and bombarded with terms and expectations from vet’s, so we’d like to make something where newbies can get some history, learn a lot and hear from people who brought this industry to where it is today.
As for vet’s, we feel like eventually everything becomes a “been there done that” in regards to these garments. It can take a lot for people to be impressed, so we’re hoping interviews and insight from people they have often followed on SuFu can give them something new.
AH: I really hope it’s something that has a high re-watch value. I hope it will answer questions and provide enlightenment, and convey a collective knowledge about raw denim. Most of all, I want it to inspire.
DL, MA: One goal is pretty hard. If we had to say it simply, the main goals of this film are to connect, inspire, and to teach us. Oh, and to look pretty.
AH: How I see it, the goal of the film is to spread the appreciation and understanding of raw denim. Furthermore, I want it to inspire people, to fuel their passion for denim. Also, it’s awesome to record all of the different denim the participants are bringing to show off.
RD: In the future, are you both planning to be engaged in the raw denim community in any way? Perhaps a sequel?
DL, MA: A sequel would be mighty nice. We’ve had such great support from enthusiasts, especially in the Kickstarter phase of the film, so as long as people like what we deliver there will definitely be a sequel. At this moment we are looking around this same time in 2013 for a Japan trip. Fingers crossed!
RD: When is the release date?
DL, MA: At this moment everything is on track for the film to be released in late May/early June of 2012.
AH: I’ve already talked to Devin and Mehdi about a possible sequel exploring Japan, and I want to be involved in that project as well. Also, I plan on continue being a member and a regular at SUFUs Superdenim forums. Other than that, there might be other projects in store for me in the near future. Time will tell!
Thanks again for your time and sharing a bit about yourselves, Devin and Mehdi. Looking forward to May/June!