Interview – Jason Heath, Denim Doctors & Hollywood Trading Company
I’ve been pitching the idea of interviewing Los Angeles repair shop, Denim Doctors & Hollywood Trading Company, for some time now. What makes this shop different is the care and exceptional detail they give every pair of jeans that passes through their doors.
They offer hole repairs, full leg tapers, hems, patchwork and even boot repair, all while running their store as a small “home-like” boutique; selling vintage items including denim jackets, shirts, leather belts and boots.
As I’ve personally had work done at the shop multiple times and never walked away disappointed, it was a pleasure to sit down with store manager, Jason Heath, for a bit of a chat. I’ve met Heath countless times before this interview, and have always been impressed with his wealth of experience pertaining to denim repair, as well as his strong interest in vintage products.
RD: So Jason, what is raw denim for you?
JH: Raw denim is everything to me, being a denim enthusiast that’s pretty much all that we wear around the store. That comes from Zip Stevenson’s inspirations, you’ll never see Zip wearing anything but raw denim.
RD: Knowing that Zip is sole owner of the company, how did Denim Doctors/HTC start?
JH: It first started up in 1994, when I was still pretty young and still in grade school. It started up from Zip’s passion for all types of denim. Denim Doctors started up first and then later expanded with the addition of Hollywood Trading Company (HTC). He’s always loved denim and anything vintage so those two went hand-in-hand for him.
RD: What makes you different from the other denim repair shops in the Los Angeles area?
JH: What’s unique about us is that we’re actually two stores in one. Denim Doctors resides inside HTC which is something I don’t think you can find elsewhere in California. Denim Doctors is as good as it gets. We get work in the mail from Japan, Europe and all over the country – New York, Texas, Florida, even middle of nowhere North Dakota for our repairs.
As a store we also carry various brands like Sunny Sports, Velva Sheen and our very own HTC high quality leather belts made with a kick-press. The thing about them is that they look “vintage but are new,” which in itself gives it added value.
RD: Speaking about your belts, I’ve noticed you recently had a collaboration with Self Edge down the street. Can you elaborate on that?
JH: Yes, we make a lot of belts for various different companies, like Self Edge, which is a lot of fun. Our most popular belts are the p-53 which we nickname the “Peanut” belt. It is made from 100% Cowhide Black Leather and hand applied Nickel Studs.
RD: Having had so many of my personal pairs of denim repaired so well at this store, I’m curious – what’s your repair methodology?
JH: Well, there are some secrets that we’ll keep. I will say that everything is worked on by hand on vintage sewing machines. We also have thousands of pairs of scrap denim in stock so if your jeans have a rip on them we’ll cut materials from a scrap pair that is similar and fill in the missing piece with the right color and texture.
The invisible repair is probably the most popular thing that we do. What we do is fill in the missing piece with a similar martial. The material is neither inside or outside, it just literally fills in the hole. Then we add a thin backing layer made out of a gauze-like material and finally stitch it down while following the grain of the jean so it’s camouflaged as well as possible.
One of my favorite things though, is that if you have vintage items like 1930-40’s pairs or a Levis’s Type I denim jacket, we actually have vintage denim to do the repairs with. We don’t put new denim in there, we would cut the scrap pair and replace it in so it’s all from the same time period.
RD: Knowing your store has such a large interest in vintage items, what do you think is your rarest item in the store?
JH: Hands down one of my favorites are two sample pairs of Mini-Levi’s. Back in the day Levi’s would create a very small fit to scale model which is completely propositional to scale. The minis are actually from 1937 and were given to stores by traveling salesmen.
When a salesman would go to a store to do a pitch, they would leave a mini pair for the owner as a gift, and also so the owner could see a good model of the jean. Apparently it was easier than lugging around a pair of the jeans; plus in the event that the owner wasn’t present when the salesman arrived, he could leave a pair behind for the owner to see when he/she returned. The funny thing is customers usually think they’re for a baby or something!
RD: Any last words?
JH: That’s a good question, any parting words for Mr. Ramos. Honestly, Denim Doctors & Hollywood Trading Company is my passion. It’s really a unique place, and if anything it would be worth your time to come down and take a look. I also consider it a little slice of going back in time when you get in here.
RD: That’s some great insight Jason, always remember – Stay Raw!
JH: I like that – Stay Raw!