3×1 Founder Scott Morrison Gives Jeans the Couture Treatment
Skinny, selvedge, vintage, boyfriend: spoiled by choice, why is it we still find ourselves lost on the search for the perfect pair of jeans—ones that are durable, but figure flattering; give without stretching; versatile enough to dress up or down; in a classic wash that doesn’t bulge, tear or fade. Could such a thing even exist?
Scott Morrison thinks so—he’s the entrepreneur and denim enthusiast behind 3×1 (the name comes from the 3×1 Right Hand Twill—the traditional weave used for jeans). Formerly the founder of Paper Denim & Cloth and Earnest Sewn, Morrison has positioned himself as a denim demigod with the power to accentuate your backside with well-placed pockets, or elongate limbs with his signature raw hemline.
So we asked Morrison: What makes the perfect pair of jeans? Ahead, the designer explains how 3×1 is revolutionizing the way we shop by reminding us of the elegance of quality denim.
3×1 was born from the designer’s renewed love for selvedge denim, which is characterized by the ‘self-edge’ of the fabric—the denim comes out of the loom with finished edges, resulting in tightly woven bands that run down each side of the leg that prevent fraying, unraveling or curling. Selvedge denim tends to have a denser weave and a sturdier build. “At both Paper Denim and Earnest Sewn, I had dabbled in using selvedge denim, but it was expensive and not a lot of people were producing it.” Though selvedge denim was the material predominantly used to make jeans in the early 20th century, after World War II, priority shifted from producing quality blue jeans to pumping out mass quantities. The shuttle loom and selvedge denim became almost entirely obsolete. “The denim equivalent of the typewriter,” Morrison quips.
As years passed and appreciation for artisanal quality once again piqued, consumers began to understand and value rare selvedge denim. Morrison, poised to gain from this seller’s market, decided he wouldn’t just sell selvedge, he’d also create a space where his customers could learn about and even design their own jeans: “I kept thinking about how to make this a more immersive environment for anyone who wanted to come in and learn about denim, and learn about what goes into making a great pair of jeans.” He opened a denim laboratory in SoHo, the 3×1 atelier. There, in his factory-within-a-store, behind large panes of glass, a handful of highly skilled patternmakers and sewers work on display, assembling each pair of 3x1s to exact specification.
The 3×1 atelier evokes turn-of-the-century fashion houses—a concept that is not often seen in the modern age of buy now, wear now. “A lot of people think about denim and apparel making as a push-button experience. I’ll just press a button on the jean machine and something will come out, great! And in many ways, the market has attempted to make things much simpler.” But simple Morrison’s process is not. He focuses on the placement, proportion and scale of every pair—elements and customizations that could not exist in automated production. “It’s all about being meticulous over the details,” says the denim aficionado who, alongside his ready-to-wear collection available at Nordstrom, offers clients a chance to create a pair of denim from scratch in his factory (which can set you back close to $1,500). Whether bespoke or ready-to-wear, Morrison promises consistent quality assurance across the board: “Everything starts at the atelier. All of our product development and everything that we’re trying to create—it all starts here with the same tools, the same sewers, same patternmakers, the same cutting, the same fabrics, the same method.”
“That’s the funnest part of the job: being creative, coming up with ideas and working with people in a collaborative way to come up with solutions.”
Though mindful of tradition, Morrison’s line is nothing if not current. But instead of trying to keep up with fickle trends, 3×1 is setting them. “I was inspired by all the leather fringing happening on handbags and accessories. I wanted to see if we could replicate that in denim.” And with the help of one of his Los Angeles producers, Morrison created his signature frayed hem by using a laser to create miniature slits in the jean. The laser horizontally severed the white threads of the denim, leaving the indigo threads to drop vertically, thus creating the raw-edge trend that has been dominating the market for the past several years. “That’s the funnest part of the job: being creative, coming up with ideas and working with people in a collaborative way to come up with solutions. And when it works well, it’s great. And when it doesn’t work, well, it’s tough.”
Tough as it may be, Morrison and his team have created the world’s most luxurious denim by putting the focus back on construction. By abandoning mass production and focusing on craftsmanship, Morrison is taking the denim industry back to its traditional design principles with a deep understanding of how jeans should make you feel. “The perfect pair is different for everyone, but it comes down to confidence,” says the designer, circling back to our original question. “The right ones will become your most prized possession.”
Then, Morrison adds, you must care for them properly. “It’s kind of common sense,” he says, “but it’s just about putting in the effort for something that you really care about. If you’re willing to take care of them, these jeans will last you a really long time.” And Morrison would know: One of the first pairs of 3x1s that Morrison ever made, sitting in his New York City apartment seven years ago, is among his favorite pairs. “I wear them to this day.”
Make your denim last with these tips from Scott Morrison:
- Wash them inside-out, gently. “Simply soaking them in water with a little bit of Castile soap is great. Let them sit in the water for 45 minutes to an hour without disruption. Rinse thoroughly.”
- Be patient with dry time. “Let them hang dry and then pop them in the dryer about 20 minutes before you want to wear them.”
- Keep up with repairs. “Whenever you start to see something that is threadbare, where it starts to wear out a little bit, that’s not necessarily a sign of a defect or imperfection, that’s really a sign of the spots where the fabric is wearing out. If you mend it right away, it won’t be an issue ever again in that spot.”