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Something Old, Something Blue: The Inspiration Behind Designer Denim

The founder of Mott & Bow walks us through the process of creating the perfect pair of distressed jeans.

Something Old, Something Blue: The Inspiration Behind Designer Denim
[Photos & Videos: Courtesy of Mott and Bow]

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Alejandro Chahin has spent most of his life with denim. His family founded Intermoda, a denim manufacturing facility in Honduras, where he grew up. There, the founder of the men’s jeans maker Mott & Bow first discovered the process of distressing jeans as a teenager. “I just started playing with jeans,” he said. “I got them made in my size; it was a blank canvas.”

Alejandro Chahin

Now, more than 10 years later, Chahin runs his own operation in New York City. (He still manufactures out of Honduras at his family facility.) After finishing up business school two years ago, he founded Mott & Bow, which sells jeans for $96, which is relatively affordable compared with the $200-and-up prices you typically shell out for designer jeans.

Instead of playing around with elaborate embroidery or signature back pocket embellishments, Chahin creates simple jeans in three fits that come in various washes with minor distresses. To get the pants to look just right, he uses a process he calls “denim science.”


First, Chahin sifts through secondhand stores to understand what makes pants look authentically old. “We go to markets of used clothing to see what happens to a jean after maybe five years of use,” he says. Pants tend to fade and tear in similar ways for all wearers. (You’re not the only one with chronic crotch rip issues.) Chahin also looks at the pants of people walking around the streets (probably making for a lot of awkward butt stares).

Next, he picks out fabrics and starts experimenting with washes. “One of the most creative areas is the laundry,” he says, and indeed, it’s where he first fell in love with denim. The jean will take on a different color depending on the amount of time and type of wash. “On our fabric if you just rinse it, it stays dark. If you do stonewash for 30 minutes, it gets lighter,” he explains. Once he gets a color he likes, Chahin experiments with tying, sandpapering, razor cutting, and other ways to “replicate natural wear and tear,” as he puts it.

Below you can see the process in action:

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Tears:


Distressed cuffs:


Acid wash in action:


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About the author

Rebecca Greenfield is a former Fast Company staff writer. She was previously a staff writer at The Atlantic Wire, where she focused on technology news

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