For better or worse, Vancouver’s main sartorial contribution to the world is the much loved but equally maligned yoga pant.
All that could change, however, if DU/ER Performance Denim creators Gary Lenett and Steven Sal Debus get their way.
“It’s crazy to me that nothing in men’s jeans has changed since Levi’s invented them for miners in the 1870s,” says Lenett, who is also the president of Dish Jeans, a Vancouver-based line of women’s denim. It’s a typically soggy fall afternoon and Lenett and Sal Debus have opened up their Railtown showroom to media for a sneak peek at product they hope will revolutionize men’s jeans and stake a claim on the multibillion-dollar global denim industry.
“Men are wearing jeans originally designed for panning in streams and outdoor living, which is fine if that’s how you spend your days,” Lenett says. “That’s not what I do in a day.”
A project two years in the making, DU/ER (pronounced “doer”, as in one who does stuff) is a melding of Lenett’s 25-year experience in the denim industry manufacturing jeans for companies such as Levi’s and Guess, and Sal Debus’s background in technical garments as the founder of now-defunct, environmentally friendly performance-clothing line Modrobes. “He’s the trend and I’m the tech,” Sal Debus explains. “So we are creating a stylish and superior jean that incorporates all the aspects of performance garments we can.”
“It was very selfish on my part,” Lenett says of the idea behind his jeans. “A few years ago, I started riding my bike to work. I’m active but I’m lazy: I don’t like having to change my clothes. And I might want to ride my bike to work on the day of the most important business meeting of the year. Or maybe I’m planning on taking my wife out to dinner that evening. I wanted a jean that fit into my lifestyle and still looked presentable.”
DU/ER jeans are made using a proprietary Coolmax-style polyester fabric designed by Sal Debus that looks and feels like denim but is 30 percent lighter and stronger than traditional cotton. The cloth has wicking properties (just like your favourite gym clothes) that keep moisture away from the body, dries faster than denim, and offers a fuller range of movement. An invisible gusset that runs along the inside upper leg also ensures a comfortable fit with none of the bunching or pulling associated with tighter and tighter denim styles.
“I was wearing skinny jeans that were too tight for me to even pedal my bike,” Sal Debus says. “What good were they if I couldn’t get around in them?
“Or on a day like today,” he says, gesturing out into the sodden street, “I biked here and instead of being soaked for the rest of the day, my jeans dried out in no time.”
Being a purpose-driven product, DU/ER has also given its creators the chance to experiment. One of the jean’s more unexpected features is its front pockets are lined with Swiss Shield, a material that blocks up to 90 percent of a cellphone’s radiation in what most men would agree is a highly sensitive area.
“It will take an entire generation (or lack of a generation) to really see if cellphones have any effect on our health,” says Lenett.
“So why not take as many precautions as you can?” adds Sal Debus. “Plus, this is our project. There was no one to tell us we couldn’t do it or it was too much of an added expense.
“Ultimately, this is for us. I was unhappy with what was out there and thought I could do it better. And I knew I couldn’t be the only guy to feel that way.”
It appears Lenett was right. After the launch via a Kickstarter.com campaign last month, investors were able to purchase a pair of dark indigo jeans in either a slim or relaxed fit at a deep discount from the future retail price of $160. Orders would be manufactured and sent out once $25,000 had been raised. That goal was surpassed in less than two weeks, prompting Lenett and Sal Debus to raise their initial asking price ($69) and offer a black jean (should the campaign hit $50,000) and, ultimately, a women’s version (at $75,000). Currently, DU/ER jeans are available for $98. The campaign continues until October 27, after which DU/ER Performance Denim will be available for sale on the company website.
“I remember when men used to come home and change into their jeans to get comfortable,” Lenett says. “Now they come home and change out of their jeans into something else to get comfortable. We want to change that back.”