Ben Viapiana is one of my favorite denim makers. In fact, he is one of my favorite makers period. Not only are his jeans incredibly well made by himself only in Toronto, but he is extremely knowledgeable and willing and able to make almost anything that you can dream up. In fact, while he specializes in denim, he will be making me several pairs of tweed trousers that I will receive soon after this interview is released.
Obviously, this means that I have been quite happy with the products that I have already received from him and given this, I figured he would be a great person to interview in order to give more information to readers of this website. Recently, I have been interviewing people whose styles I admire, but this time I am interviewing someone whose skill, dedication, and craftsmanship I admire. I hope you find Ben’s thoughts as informative as I did.
Almost Vintage Style: How did you get into making custom jeans?
Ben Viapiana: My father is a tailor, so i always had an influence close by. I started by making a pair at 16 years old as sort of a mini bet with my dad… Once i realized that making jeans with my dad around would only turn them into “dress pants” made from denim, I quickly diverted my energy into other garments. I loved taking a zip up hoodie pattern and making it from tweeds with silk linings. The funkier the better! After all I was still in high school at the time! It was only until I moved to Thailand that I tried denim again as the weather didn’t permit me wearing jackets at all!! Thailand had a lot to offer! I had access to cloth, machines, mechanics, and even lightning magazines which opened a new door to a lot of knowledge.
AVS: Why custom? Most one man brands make specific products. What makes you choose to do custom work instead?
BV: I am trying to continue the style of work as any tailor would (ie. my father). I don’t consider myself a brand. For me, making a piece at a time has pros and cons. I like the idea of starting something and finishing it fairly quickly. That way the creative process can repeat itself and I can continue to learn and try new methods.
AVS: What is your favorite aspect or detail of jeans?
BV: I like how denim is never at a standstill. It moves. The material itself which is usually cotton can stretch and shrink and form to a body which can ruin a shape or in most cases make it a more perfect fitting garment. When I have local clients, I tell them to wear the jeans for a week and if after a week they move or stretch out in a way you dont like, I’ll take them in for free!
AVS: What is your favorite part of the construction process?
BV: I love how you call it a construction process because that’s the way i feel about it. It isn’t dainty and delicate. Mohsin (from Endrime) once used cardboard box staples to hold the pleats down on a jacket and I think that is the best ever! As most can tell from my social media, I love using a bunch of different sewing machines. This makes the process fun for me and I believe it makes a better garment as well. (chain stitches stretch, so why would you sew a lock stitch on the inseam which needs the most give on a garment!!! not mentioning names!!!!!)
AVS: How important are your specific machines to you (do you have favorites, do you prefer certain machines to others)?
BV: My machines mean the world to me! Each one has its purpose and function. I use about 14 machines for 1 pair of jeans. I like felling machines the most as they require a special skill set to use them properly. Overlock machines have a nice feel to them even though people don’t like them for some reason. But the best feeling is when a button hole machine makes perfect holes.
AVS: I have noticed that single person operations and small shops are usually run by very unique people. Do you think it takes a specific type of person to do this kind of work?
BV: Yes, I have also noticed that every one man brand that makes jeans has skateboarded at one point as well (prove me wrong… wait, DAE DENIM did you skate?). So there is definitely a connection between the independent spirit we have and the creativity we all possess. I love how we are all so similar and so different at the same time.
AVS: What are the advantages and disadvantages or running a one man operation?
BV: We are not allowed to get sick! Or even go to the post office unannounced. People treat our service just as they would the service at McDonalds but most don’t realize the amount of work we do to make this thing keep running. This is my full time job and has been for 10 years now, so I have been able to balance most things this long. As long as my health lets me, I’ll keep doing this!
AVS: Are there any other denim brands, makers, or other clothing makers that have or currently inspire you?
In no particular order:
Railcar – hard work and dedication
CSF – for being the most dedicated nerd out there
Roy – consistency pure consistency
Indigo Proof – best repairs, a wizard in colour matching
Endrime – creativity and he pushes boundaries. I like that he is willing to teach too
Diresta – the old videos without the cnc though (no denim involved here)
Matthias Wandel – inventor/genius
Hardenco – true americana spirit plus great teamwork on their part
Bill mitchell – from BILLIAM cause he built his empire with no credit cards!!
vanorn bangkok – if you want to see dedication to the final product.
Coup de tete – they make insane hats and are great shop mates.
Vanderhyde – Remco is a good friend and a great bag maker.
AVS: What is your greatest strength as a denim maker?
BV: I can lift heavy rolls…. I’m not sure if being a denim maker has specific strengths, but running a business that pays the bills and makes you happy definitely gives you strength to do anything after. I think I have great smell if that counts for anything…
AVS: Do you have a favorite item or type of item that you prefer to make more than others (is there something that makes you especially excited to make when people order it)?
BV: I like making jeans. period. The ones I made for you in burgundy were awesome! I have a new roll in olive that is great too.
AVS: Do you have any upcoming plans or releases for your brand?
BV: I’m not anticipating anything large yet. But I am open for the possibility of doing some small runs for shops quarterly. That could be fun. I had this idea of picking a different shop every 3 months to release a style or something. (If you own a shop and you’ve read this far, and this sounds interesting… HIT ME UP!)
Thanks for the great insight Ben! The point about one man denim brands all being skateboarders is funny, but he has a point there. I know Grease Point and Roy definitely skated. It was really great to learn more about one of the best denim makers currently out there. If you enjoyed his insight and are interested in checking out or ordering a pair of his jeans or anything else you can dream up, check out his website here and follow him on Instagram here.