PAUL THOMPSON – JACK & JONES VINTAGE CLOTHING’S DESIGN MANAGER

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Hi Paul, can you briefly introduce yourself to Denim Boulevard readers? 

Yes sure, I’m Paul Thompson – I come from Middlesbrough, a North East England little industrial city – and I’m a Design Manager for Vintage Clothing line by Jack & Jones. As a young guy I decided to study fashion-design in Nottingham University, but in the middle of the second year I realised that classic fashion wasn’t for me and was about to quit, then we were set a denim design project, immediately I understood what I wanted to do in my life. In the same period I started to work in a vintage clothing shop, and also there I felt in love rather quickly; the history behind every garment, the functionality of each and all of them, the way they aged according to the use of the people wearing them… an experience that influenced a lot on my career for sure.

Tell us a bit about your background up to arriving at Jack & Jones, your twenty-year experience in the denim-vintage worlds.

After university I started working at Diesel as a Design Manager for the 55DSL line, if I’m not wrong it was from ‘96 to 2001; later I moved to New York where I kept working for Diesel, after that I started consulting for the men’s denim collections with Mavi Jeans and Analog (and also different collaborations with CK Jeans)… There was a period when with my wife we tried to launch our own brand – Bread – but despite having earned the thrust of remarkable shops in USA, UK and Japan in just three season, shortly we understood that marketing wasn’t our job. Then, around 2002, a period when a denim boom happened and the fabric got unobtainable, we moved to Belgium where for two years I’ve alternated myself between the consulting for Wrangler men’s jeans line, and the branding for Levi’s Europe. Finally, some years later, after being several times to Italy for my consulting, we moved to this fantastic country because I entered Replay, where for eight years I’ve been active as Design Director for the men’s section. In the end it arrived the famous call by Jack & Jones, where I’ve been working for three years with great satisfaction.

What does being Jack & Jones Vintage Clothing’s Design Manager mean?

I’m doing very fine, there’s a completely different mindset compared to the other companies I worked for, focused on the ‘value for money’; that is to say, gifting the piece with a higher value compared to the one its purposely competitive price could ‘mislead’ the customer. All that doesn’t mean forgetting quality and concept, for Vintage Clothing we always start from a cultural reference, so an era or a particular look, or a singular historical piece; ‘70s surf-skate culture, punk or military (I prefer utility garments with functional detailing), trying to renew and interpret the taste and fit in order to be up-to-date.

Where do you draw inspiration to design new garments every collection? Is there someone you take the cue from or you are given design inputs by?

The vital blood for inspiration are the travels to Los Angeles, Tokyo and London when we do a lot of research… after twenty years around I sometimes struggle to find ‘new’ vintage garments, but if you analyze it in depth you always find a never seen before piece. I’m influenced by cultural movements and subcultures, mostly musical, in the past music really changed people’s look and attitude while nowadays they’re just fast, passing trends. I’m also heavily inspired by the people around me, it’s important for me to have friendships outside of my work, friends that are barmen, tattooers, metalworkers, or harbour men, they all give me so much. Finally, classic, timeless garments, iconic pieces of historic menswear, we reinvent or customise them with new fabrics, or new fits, always trying to save the right proportions not to distort that authentic feeling.

What fabrics do you prefer to work with?

Regarding fabrics us at Jack & Jones have to be realistic, personally I love true materials, strong ones – for denim pretty sturdy selvedges – but we also should realize that most people are used to comfort; we’re very careful and always looking for innovations in the textile world, like stretch fabrics, technologies and gimmicks far from the vintage world yet pleasing the needs of the majority of customers.

What direction has the denim world taken in the latest years?

To me the fabrics a bit more rigid are coming back, the ones with a more authentic nature, maybe lighter and a bit more open in the fibres for a major comfort… let’s say a more authentic look with a ‘softened’ touch. Also regarding wearability there’s a return to the regular or tapered fits – a bold change from the skinny we saw in the latest years. About treatments and shadings we can say that we’re going back to a more vintage look with medium tones (washings that don’t distort the fabric’s original colour).

How do you want Paul Thompson’s jeans to be?

For one who’s working in this field I feel at ease only when I’m wearing unwashed raw-denim; I want my jeans to age and get the shape of my body, so I usually wear selvedge RDD 13-14 oz. I have to say that lately I’ve also tried stretch models and it’s really hard to return to pretty sturdy selvedges. Given my strong build I need regular-fit or anti-fit to stay comfortable, nobody would be funnier than me if I wore a skinny!

Jack & Jones’ ace in the hole for the denim field is RDD for sure, can you speak about it?

The idea is to show people that Jack & Jones is capable of creating hi-level pieces; Japanese or Italian selvedge fabrics (like Kuroki and Candiani’s), treatments made in Italy in the best laundry-labs, Italian manufacture… in fact all the RDD project (‘Royal Denim Division’) is developed in the Beautiful Country. We’re giving this collection a very ‘authentic’ mood, also because that who buys and looks for a similar clothing type for sure is a well-informed customer and a jeans enthusiast, so materials and details have to be perfect.

What will denim’s future be? Where is it going…

If I knew I’d be rich… Joking aside, for fabrics, washings and technology surely everything’s going towards eco-sustainability; the denim world changed in the latest times, fortunately there’s less squandering, they’re coming back to larger fits and volumes, authentic – also for sturdy fabrics yet with more ‘open’ fibres for a major comfort.

What are your passions outside the your job?

I love to drive any kind of motorbike, I’m not deeply tied to a particular driving-experience or cultural group (I’m not a Harley-head even though I got a couple of them)… if I have to express a preference I’m especially captured by old motorbikes, simpler than nowadays’ ones yet with a greater character. Given my job I’ve not so much spare time, so I enjoy also the way to get to a work-meeting! Another passion is tattoo for sure, I’m fascinated by the old traditional style and if I have to get a tattoo done my favourite artists are Glory Bound’s Joe Dynamite in Antwerp and New York’s Bailey Hunter Robinson. I’m collecting old and new artworks from the whole world – I’ve recently bought some canvases by English artist Sophia Rose (tattoo and gipsy-style) and a walrus tusk gently inlaid by a hunter. In the end another passion to mention is music for sure, all that I consider ‘real’; from the folk of Woody Guthrie, Gillian Welsh and Bob Dylan to the punk of The Buzzcocks, Iggy Pop, the Stooges and Ramones; also the hip-hop of  Ice Cube, Snoop Dogg and everything in between, the Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix, The Rolling Stones, RL Burnside and the list goes on, important thing is they’re real!

What does Bestseller represent in the denim world?

We can say really ‘value for money’ – a hi-level product, but with a competitive price fitting everybody, besides being very fast and super effective… in three words: quality, competitive price, fastness.