A conversation with King-Yu Yiu about his own Workman Overall after 800 days of wear
London-based designer King-Yu Yiu is one of the world’s most dedicated denim heads, and is a star in documenting his denim journeys as well. The high fashion designer has been a huge inspiration for Robin Denim since day one and we have had countless interesting conversations in the past few years, particularly about our common love for denim!
After wearing a pair of LEE 101Z’s beyond its limits, King-Yu partnered up with a denim mill in order to design and develop his own Workman Overall. King’s been wearing his Workman Overall for going on 800 days now without a single wash, and he is intending to keep wearing the set for months to come. We sat down with King-Yu (digitally unfortunately) and we spoke about his love for denim in the first place and how and why he developed his own Workman Overall. Later, King-yu shared his findings about the Workman Overall after 800 days of wear.
After reading the interview, make sure to follow King-Yu Yiu on Instagram to follow his denim journey (and we promise you that great fades are guaranteed!).
Robin Denim (RD): King-Yu Yiu, for anyone who doesn’t know you yet, can you please start by briefly introducing yourself? Who is the man behind the fantastic name?
King-Yu Yiu (KYY): Thank you for your kind words as always Robin! Long story short I’m a designer by day and an artist by night; who just also happens to be very keen on indigo products in particular, with a desire to strive for the best quality and goods built to last. Having worked in the fashion industry for almost 14 years, I have seen big changes during my time and one piece of advice that has always stuck in my mind was when Vivienne Westwood said to me to always “Buy Less, Choose Well” (now one of her main slogans used in her current collections), which I feel is a very fitting message especially as we all have become increasingly mindful of the environmental impact of our choices – not only in fashion but along with other industries are too becoming very eco-conscious. This was the sole base of my inspiration why I started to offer bespoke denim; to produce only what is absolutely necessary (even against the smallest quantity runs) and most importantly, painstakingly crafting the best pieces. Unfortunately with the recent disruptions, it has been extremely hard to source the right pattern cutters and machinists, nonetheless we will get there.
RD: We were actually planning to meet for a project in London until Covid ruined our plans. How have you been holding up in the past two years?
KYY: Yes, this was a real shame indeed, mad two years already passed since our last interview together but hopefully we are now well on the way to normality (fingers crossed). Perhaps we will finally meet and greet further down the year Robin?!
I’m currently working towards my sixth year at John Richmond so that itself has kept me more than busy. I’m also working alongside with one of my closest collaborators, Kinder Aggugini, who is endlessly guiding me within the art world – who I mentioned briefly during our first interview and presently exhibiting my second piece at his Boutique on Connaught Street, London.
RD: Can you please tell a little more about your fascination with denim? Why do you love denim?
KYY: I really do have to dedicate this to my denim ‘crash-course’ education at Evisu back in my nostalgic year of 2008 when the head office was based in Savile Row. The team there was really just the best; great laughs and they’d pretty much showed me the ropes by what it takes to become a proper Denim Head. Prior moving to Westwood Studios, I still remember very vividly the day when Mark Westmoreland asked me to stay on; I went back home thinking about it all evening and it does make wonder how different things would be if I took that route…
When I eventually picked this back up, specializing and developing with LEE Jeans in a Vivienne Westwood collaboration, it reignited the passion further and fuelled my ambition to eventually produce my own denim set. At LEE’s headquarters in Antwerp was fantastic, it was the people there and their simple love for a pair of jeans that inspired me the most.
RD: I know we have been talking about the creation of your Workman Overall in collaboration with Crystal Denim before, but can you please take us back to the formation and development?
KYY: The first time I visited Crystal Denim was around 2011-12. I was in Hong Kong at the time visiting potential manufactures for myself and just so happens to discover that they are one of the world’s leading environmentally friendly suppliers, ranging from sustainable sourcing to chemical management. What impressed me the most was their wastewater facilities which recycles and purifies used water – saving an equivalent of 1.70 million tons of fresh water a year. As you know I support ‘Dry Goods’ all day long but it is their ethos and mentality which I very much admire. The scale of their operations are just incredible, especially the years of hard work invested into the company since their humble beginnings, starting out with what I believe with only a few sewing machines and knitting looms back in the mid 70’s. More recently, it has also been named one of the most influential companies for a sustainable future by SDG2000, World Benchmarking Alliance; this shows promising signs for myself that I am collaborating with a company with the right ethos and values. Especially in light of the current global challenges, I feel now is the time to stop, think and change to strive for a better future in all aspects of the production process.
RD: You are now wearing the Workman Overall for 800 days, which is already incredibly long. Have you been wearing the set every day since you started the project? How is the construction holding up?
KYY: ALWAYS EVERYDAY! During lockdowns I would pick up the overalls and at least stroll around the garden a dozen of times to break and move the fabric in! And of course, fresh air is the best way to clear one’s mind.
In regards to the construction, there is not a fault I can point out, it has been crafted extremely well; Crystal Denim did a great job especially along the welted seams that’s managed to stay very much in tact (so far!).
RD: As you knew you were going to wear the overall LONG, did you add some extra features for extra durability?
KYY: I’ve kept it as real as I could based on the original specs of the workman pieces I had and just let time to tell the story as it is. I try not to add too much fancy design features (apart from the trims and slight play on proportions) but let’s face it, its workwear so let’s just leave it as that. There is a reason why it was originally developed like it is now so I won’t argue with our previous denim masters.
RD: With over two years of wear I assume you already needed to do some repairs. Could you walk us through the necessary repairs?
KYY: Surprisingly no repairs required yet! But as we speak, I do have a break on my left upper thigh and a split on the lower crotch from the cycling commutes. I’ll have to get in touch with @sashikodenim soon!
RD: Looking at the 16.5 oz. Cone selvedge denim fabric, what do you think of the evolution of the fabric so far?
KYY: The fabric is woven beautifully. It’s not your classic Japanese denim whereby the handle is usually more dry and featuring more of a red cast than the traditional green. But as the months have gone by, it’s great to see the whiskers and honeycombs finally forming. I’m very used to the traditional Japanese characteristics so it’s almost re-discovering in a strange way! Some areas are now wearing incredibly thin, but that’s not exactly surprising with it not up to my usual 20+ oz weight quality!
RD: Compared to the LEE 101Z you have been wearing before, what are your findings on the unique Workman Overall?
KYY: Silhouette is causing the key difference in this instance. Denim bottoms are not close to the body form so the honeycombs and general back fades are far less developed. In comparison, the jeans jacket sleeves are much more close-fitting hence the visual development of a more prominent wear. Certainly, the upper part of the jeans fit is roomier which gives great comfort and easing in those weekend takeaway treats.
RD: 800 days of wearing the same denim set… How’s the smell? How do you manage to keep the jeans fresh-ish?
KYY: Haha yes! The smell is always under control, “thank goodness” my wife says! I have no choice but to make sure I air dry my jeans near the windows every night and catch any morning sun to keep it as ‘fresh’ as possible; it’s never the nicest thing to feel those ice-cold legs during the winter season!
RD: In the past you have been wearing a pair of LEE 101Z for 1338 days straight, and you mentioned right after starting to wear the Workman Overall that you will surely wear this set longer. Are you still fully standing behind these words?
KYY: 100%, right until the very end! And goes without saying the ‘raw way’ according to the blue code as encouraged by @swissjeansfreak throughout the community.
RD: Are you already orienting on the next project? If so, which pairs are appealing to your eyes?
KYY: Very much so, I’m always re-digging back up old archives and re-imagining new approaches on how to take on the next set. Of course, I won’t forget to mention your beautiful Realign piece which is very much in consideration for the next wear down!
I’ve been in touch with a certain ‘tailor’ but only very early explorations for the time being. To be honest, however, I’ve still a quite few months with the WORKMAN OVERALLS so plenty of time to keep all options opened as well…all to be continued!