How To Care For Denim, According To The Biro Brothers
(Left to right) Keng How and Kage Chong. Photo: Komorebi

Fashion is undergoing a transformation—one that has been a long time coming. From global luxury fashion brands to smaller labels closer to home, everyone is rethinking the way fashion is produced, especially the way it’s being consumed.

With sustainability, in every sense of the word, playing a huge role in consumers’ purchasing decisions, we decided to speak to Keng How and Kage Chong, the founders of homegrown menswear label Biro, to find out how one local fashion company is adapting to this phenomenon. They also share their tips on caring and shopping for denim, so that you can get the most out of your purchase and wear it for many years to come. 

What do you think the current role of fashion is?

We think that the role of fashion now is all about meaningful consumption through understanding and appreciating how well your clothes are made, who made and how ethically they were made. Which is something that will resonate positively with society, and shed light on how much one really needs to consume. 

How are you adapting to the new norms brought about by the global pandemic?

As the pandemic is slowing down how we usually conduct our business, we are taking this time to to step back and reevaluate, rethink and reinvent ourselves creatively and our business to come up with newers ways of doing things—especially when it comes to our company values because we care about our customers. And part of that means engaging our consumers more through channels we previously did not place much emphasis on and conceptualising campaigns, product launches and content in a way that is not just different, but more meaningful than before, when we had the luxury of a physical space to pull those off. We made the decision to roll out the above-mentioned changes pretty swiftly, in order to sustain our business by increasing brand awareness online so as to get through the current situation. 

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As far as manufacturing is concerned, we have not held back on sourcing and producing new styles in Japan—where all of our garments are made. The only change we have implemented was pre-orders. Which helps us gain better insight into managing our resources and ensuring that we do not overproduce unnecessarIly. An example of this would be our F. CLASSIC Drawstring Denim.

We really wanted to take this opportunity to evolve the brand from one that taps on Japanese traditional machineries and their skilled craftspeople to one that also tells the story behind each product—from the choice of fabric, collaborations and its underlying philosophies. This makes for more meaningful human connections. 

What makes a great pair of denim jeans?

It is really up to personal preference and how someone plans on wearing it. Unsanforized (shrink-to-fit) denim is not superior to sanforized (pre-shrunk) denim in any case. It is truly a matter of fit and how it is being washed. Unsanforized denim will shrink up to 10 percent after washing and sanforized denim will only shrink as little as one to three percent.

A good rule of thumb for someone who is not a denim geek is that they should steer clear of unsanforized denim, unless they know what they are getting themselves into. A great pair of denim jeans is made with high quality fabric by craftspeople at factories specialising in denim, and feature good hardware. Other factors such as finishings, cuts and design are basically up to the individual’s stylistic preferences.

What are your top tips on shopping for denim?

  1. 1. We would recommend rope-dyed denim. It is a method where the denim yarns are twisted together to form a rope, and are consistently and quickly dipped into indigo baths. The short dyeing period in the indigo vats creates ring-dyed yarns which fade better over time because the dyes do not fully penetrate into the denim fibers.

2. If you would like a tighter cut of denim jeans, some elasticity will definitely improve the comfort level. However that also means that synthetic fibers have been added to the fabric, which essentially results in a decrease in fading characteristics. 

3. Lined back pockets do add a little bit of protection against the wearing out of the fabric over time. But in most cases, it will just be a subtle detail.

4. Button flys are not as difficult to handle as it seems and it contributes to the overall aesthetic. That said, consumers who are not fond of the design and functionality of them, should go for a zipper fly instead.

5. Lastly, if you are very particular about the fit, then you should purchase them in store with the help of a knowledgeable denim sales assistant. Ultimately, the fabric makeup of the denim jeans will affect how much the denim shrinks after washing.

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Other than your brand, where else would you recommend consumers to purchase denim jeans from?

Levi’s Vintage Clothing is a good choice because they have great quality denim jeans, and you would be able to learn and choose cuts from the different eras. 

What are your top tips to prolong the lifespan of denim jeans?

1. Wash it if it is dirty and uncomfortable to wear.

2. If it is only a little dirty, put it out in the sun.

3. Washing it with denim detergent will help it last longer.

4. Only wash with lukewarm water. Higher temperatures will cause more of the indigo to fade and result in shrinkage.

5. Turn your jeans inside out before washing to reduce fading.

6. Do not wash the jeans unnecessarily.

7. Patch up any abrasive surfaces before it becomes a blowout.

8. Keep it in an airy environment if you are wearing it frequently because bacteria may form in a damp environment and cause the fabric to deteriorate.

9. Wear it over a long period of time to allow the denim to mould to your body shape, especially raw denim. Which is an untreated and unwashed fabric that feels sturdy and stiff.

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Lastly…

  • Denim is… storytelling.
  • Indigo is…part of our DNA
  • My favorite style of denim jeans are… vintage Levi’s.
  • I like wearing my jeans with…pride.
  • We keep sane at home by…appreciating the time we have now to do more.