Going from filmmaking to bespoke denim seems like an unlikely career path, but take it from Traveller Denim Co. co-founder Erik Untersee: It makes sense considering the multiple channels passed to get each completed.
Traveller Denim Co., founded in Austin’s East Side by Untersee and Selenia Rios, relates the principles used in filmmaking — tenacity, quick-thinking and creativity — to denim making. As Untersee said, the transition to denim is just a matter of perspective and experience.
“The film business is a creative and fast-paced industry. I worked as a grip, which is a labor-intensive job, and so is building a pair of jeans. Constantly problem solving on a film set prepares you to deal with the big and small problems that arise from working with vintage machines and with custom jeans,” he said.
Between Rios and Untersee, Traveller Denim Co. was founded on zero years of experience in the fashion business and an extraordinary amount of gut instinct. In fact, Untersee said the brand came about in a rather random, roundabout way when he bought a sewing machine to reupholster a Land Rover he had. “After realizing that a sewing machine was a tool just like any other, I started building myself clothing that I could use everyday,” Untersee recalled.
Today, the brand offers a combination of top quality denim from both Japan and North Carolina’s Cone Mill in various cuts, including the popular skinny, slim taper, and slim straight. “We order small batches of denim so we can order a range of different dyes, weights, and from different mills,” Untersee said. “We order whatever catches our eye on a given day, and then our customers come back after months of wear to help us see how the denim changes over time. Most of the denims we reorder are denims that are interesting throughout the life of the jean.”
Untersee makes it sound easy, but as anyone in the bespoke route knows aiming for democracy for all sizes, especially in the high-end apparel sector, is rife with challenges. “We wanted to do bespoke because so many people don’t find themselves fitting in off the rack jeans,” he said. “We wanted to make the perfect pair of jeans for everyone, not just a small range of people who have similar body types.”
Along with quality denim, Untersee and Rios understand that no business — be it show business or denim — can survive without building and maintaining quality relationships. “One of the best parts about doing bespoke denim is meeting all the people that we fit,” Untersee said. “Often times, we have clients come back in after several months, or a year to show off their jeans. It’s great to see the clients as proud of the work they have put into their jeans as we are.”