Benzak Denim Developers
Back in 2008, right after he graduated at the Amsterdam Fashion Institute (AMFI), Lennaert Nijgh registered Benzak Design & Development as a company. But it was years before that moment that Lennaert decided he wanted to launch his own denim brand, now known as Benzak Denim Developers (BDD).
During high school Lennaert got attracted to the dark blue jeans with nicely folded cuffs with a colorful edge. At that time, he didn’t know anything about high quality jeans, so he started to educate himself through internet. By the time he was 18, and had collected quite some high quality (mainly Japanese) jeans, he decided he wanted to launch his own denim brand. His goal was to compete with the major Japanese brands and designing something with his own twist and a European take on it.
In 2008 Lennaert started developing small projects first, and in the meantime, he worked for several other denim brands. During one of his production trips in 2011 he met his current Japanese supplier and from there on he started developing Benzak Denim Developers as we know it now.
From 2011 until 2013 Lennaert developed the first BDD collection and it was in July 2013 that he launched the jeans via the crowdfunding platform Indiegogo.com. In September 2013, the first jeans we’re delivered to the backers and stores.
Lennaert tries to combine Japanese eye for detail with European fits which means that he is always looking for the combination of historical details and modern day improvements.
Some details are just right and don’t need to be changed. When you look at Levi’s jeans from the 1950’s you will see a lot of stitching and construction details you also see in a pair of BDD jeans, like the way the waistband is stitched on with a single needle chain stitch at the bottom and finished with a lock stitch at the top. So you could easily say that Lennaert takes a lot of inspiration out of historical details. But maybe more important, Lennaert created some details, that we haven’t seen before. The best example is the hidden 6th pocket: an extra layer of fabric at the left front pocket facing with exposed selvedge.
In the development of a new fit, BDD always starts with a prototype. Together with a pattern specialist in Amsterdam he develops a pattern. The pattern will be sewed into a prototype by one of the suppliers in either Japan or Portugal. Usually this pattern is made out of an available fabric without all trimmings.
Once the fit is approved they continue to the salesman sample, or SMS. This is the sample they show to their retailers and based on these samples they place a pre-order for the new season.
The next step in the production is a sizeset. The sizeset is a set of samples in different sizes, to check if the fit also works on bigger and smaller bodtypes. This sizeset usually doubles as the pre-production sample, or PPS. This is a sample made with the same fabric as used for production and possibly also all correct buttons, labels etc. A PPS basically represents how the production should look like, and is often used by our suppliers as a reference sample during stitching.
‘Made in Japan’ vs. ‘European Made’
At Benzak Denim Developers it all started with the ‘Made in Japan’ collection. Lennaert works together with the Japanese denim Mill Collect Co, Kojima. Twice a year they have a meeting where they will discuss their latest fabrics and since last season Collect Co. started to work on BDD exclusive fabrics. The ‘special #1 low tension 14 oz. RHT’ is the first collaborative fabric but expect more of these soon. Every new fabric must complement the current collection. Every detail in the ‘Made in Japan’ collection is there for a reason, has its own purpose and function, without doing any concessions on quality or design.
The ‘European Made’ collection is brought to life to develop high quality basic jeans without the addition of expensive detailing, focusing on the 3 most important factors: good fits, quality fabrics and clean constructions. The fabric of the ‘European Made’ jeans is woven at the Italian denim mill Candiani. Candiani belongs to the best mills in the world with a wide range of beautiful fabrics. The entire ‘European Made’ collection is made in small ateliers in Portugal.
With the ‘European Made’ collection BDD changed their perspective a bit. Because a lot of guys don’t want to spend more than €200 on a pair of jeans, BDD removed some very expensive small details from their ‘Made in Japan’ collection. Basically Lennaert went back to the drawing board and stripped down the Japanese product to its bare essentials. Combining this with bringing the production back to Europe BDD was able to develop a high quality basic collection for a very reasonable price.
Since the first BDD collection back in 2013, Benzak Denim Developers has established itself as a brand to take serious. One of the first dream of Lennaert, to live solely off the brand, became real recently. Although the last 4 years have been a blast, the future promise to be even greater. In the near future, the ‘Made in Japan’ collection will get a small make-over and will focus more and more on exclusive Japanese fabrics. The ‘European Made’ collection is expanding with a lot of new products, like shirts and jackets later in 2017. And even a women’s dry selvedge denim jeans is on the drawing table as we speak.