RUEDI KARRER ITW

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Ruedi-Karrer-2Itw by Antonio Isaja – Pics by Cristian “Murio” Murianni

TELL US HOW DID YOU START TO COLLECT ALL THESE DENIM PIECES… WAS IT FOR PASSION, OR WORK, HOW DID EVERYTHING START?

I started to collect in 1970 when my family received the very first two pairs of Levi’s (my family is a numerous one, there is twelve of us), so very quickly! Until that day we never saw or wore denim before, only ‘cool’ people that could afford it and we were a pretty modest family. My collection features many pieces from the ’60s and ’70s, but it’s been some time since I’ve started collecting denim and garments by contemporary labels such as Blue Blanket, Tellason, Rising Sun and many more. As you have noticed, I’m fascinated by the all kinds of transformation of denim during time and as it wears off, nothing to do with my daily job – I’m a geographer. For instance here in Zurich two people wear Blue Blanket, brand that features really awesome colours and shades… I truly hope those two BB could end up here in the next years!

WHY DO YOU RACK UP ALL THAT DENIM? WHAT IS THE REASON THAT MAKES YOU COLLECT IT?

I was a very shy guy and, given my delicate physique, I was actually older than I looked. I used to dream about being and rebellious, a bit like James Dean. So the first time I wore blue jeans and denim jacket I felt ready, a ‘badass’… To me that was a cult, an ‘obsession to dress’ that gave me a sense of confidence and freedom! Then I’ve noticed change in colour and shade, and the worn off and damaged effects and abrasions that characterized my jeans after not washing them for some time… it was love at first sight.Ruedi-Karrer-5HOW DO YOU COLLECT ALL THAT MATERIAL AND HOW’S YOUR RESEARCH EVOLVING?

I try to collect everything I come across, searching from vintage markets to abandoned houses, from junkyards to second-hand stores, but also online and on small auctions. Often I ask the people directly when I see them wearing jeans I like, to give them to me instead of throwing them away when they’ll want to get rid of it. I’ve visited the States a couple of times on holiday, but still I tried to rack up as much stuff I was able to. I’d love to go to Japan, but always keeping in mind the viewpoint of spending as little as possible on my “Jeans Museum”.

DURING YOUR RESEARCH DO YOU TRY TO BUY EVERYTHING YOU CAN, OR DO YOU HAVE RULES YOU FOLLOW?

Sure I got some rules, I’m an expert in raw denim which is even better if never washed; I focus mainly on three big categories on which my selection is based; heavyweight (from 16 oz. up), vintage, and finally the pieces with the strongest colour. It’s interesting not only because of the weight and the ounces, but sometimes because how and how long they’ve been worn, wear-off levels can have remarkable effects on even low-level pants.Ruedi-Karrer-4SPEAKING ABOUT YOUR COLLECTION, HOW DO YOU CATALOGUE ALL THOSE PIECES?

The idea is to create a database by taking pictures of each piece and documenting it, in order to upload this collection to a website for people to have a chance to see all my work. But we’re only starting. All the pieces will be divided by brand and model, age and condition (new, dead stock, used), we are also trying to highlight the most important details that can vary; a button, a kind of stitching, a patching, rather than obvious signs of aging due to damages and fading. I think that after these six months of cataloguing it will take at least one or two years to finish off the work, but I’m not sure since I keep on racking up new pieces.

WHAT’S THE PURPOSE OF ALL THAT WORK? DO YOU WANT TO SELL GARMENTS ONLINE OR ELSEWHERE? 

That’s probably the biggest problem, because at the moment my approach isn’t commercial and I don’t have a sponsor or funds from the government or else, so everything is being paid for out of my pocket. I know too well that I should change the project to a more commercial path; many suggested that I should open a denim store (online as well) but actually I don’t believe I’m much of a salesman, I’m just a good researcher and buyer, just like most of the collectors! Moreover I should also find a bigger room to organize and showcase my “Jeans Museum”, to raise people’s awareness about the fact that two types of development exist in denim; the one given by the features of the brand (fabric, dyeing techniques, weight etc) and also worn-off effects created the wearer (depending on habits, job, way of wearing the garment etc.) – I often recognize person who have worn different kinds of denim because you can find the same signs of use, damage and washed out parts that are placed in the same areas. Ruedi-Karrer-3IS THERE A HISTORICAL PERIOD PARTICULARLY GOOD FOR GARMENTS RESEARCH

My collection is open to everything, but if I have to specify, I focus on three big cotegories: if it’s vintage, if it’s a contemporary raw denim-dead stock, and finally I focus on pieces with strong fades and colours which is the result of their wear and use (also non-selvage denim).

SO WE CAN SAY THAT THE MOST IMPORTANT DETAIL INFLUENCING YOUR SELECTION IS THE TRANSFORMATION OF THE COLOUR WITHIN THE FABRIC (EFFECT WORN OFF COLOUR)?

My main focus is for sure on denim evolution, it is often different for every brand. Nowadays most of the modern labels got excellent fading features, and the diverse colours created by their warp dyeing. Depending on the technique and the kind of substance used before the out-and-out indigo application, six macro-categories exist; yellow, brown, gray, red, black and finally my favourite, green cast (used by Eat Dust for example).Ruedi-Karrer-6CAN YOU MAKE A RANKING OF THE TEN MOST IMPORTANT BRANDS IN DENIM INDUSTRY ACCORDING TO YOUR CRITERIA?

Right now the ‘most wanted’ denim I look for is Iron Heart and Eat Dust, I hope to get them as soon as possible. There are many more names that fascinate me: Tellason, Rogue Territory, G-Star (the old ones), also Samurai Jeans, Studio D’Artisan, A.P.C., Edwin, Nudie Jeans, Denim Demon, Indigofera and let’s not forget Blue Blanket. Not to mention the legends- Levi’s, Lee and Wrangler, that until twenty years ago represented majority of the second-hand garments on the market.

WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE PROMO CAMPAIGN IN THE DENIM HISTORY?

The one from the ’80s made by Levi’s: “Quality never goes out of style”. Another one that always fascinated was by Italian label Jesus Jeans: “Those who love me will follow me”.Ruedi-Karrer-8TO END WITH, CAN YOU QUICKLY SUMMARIZE EACH ONE OF THE THREE BRANDS – LEVI’S, LEE AND WRANGLER?

Levi’s is the oldest of all three, call it the original – a brand that really made a lot for the denim industry, it’s no doubt timeless; while Lee I love for the unusual colourway of denim shades throughout the time. In fact I’m always wearing the Storm Rider Jacket (I got nearly 300 pieces of the original one from the ’60s). Wrangler, what can i say… I love the style of the garments given by the broken twill fabric; moreover there’s a detail you can find behind some jackets’ clasps, when used on and on, that almost drives me crazy!