Q&A with Nick Williams aka @denimbranded
Even if you don’t know Nick Williams, you might know his work.
The British graphic designer started collecting labels and hangtags from denim brands back in the early 90s. Ten years later,
While working at Levi’s, he always wished there was a book dedicated to branding design for apparel. Last year, together and his wife Jenny Corpuz, he published that book (with Schiffer Publishing), and named it Denim Branded. Here’s how he got there.
Nick’s Instagram Routines and How it Started
Thomas: How did it all start with your Instagram feed?
Nick: We originally had an Instagram account for our graphics studio. As the book was taking shape, we started to Instagram some denim branding related images, which got a lot of traction. We finally made the switch about six months before the book was released, when we started to promote the book.
T: Why Instagram? What are your goals?
N: Instagram is the most visual of all the real-time social media platforms that we use. It also seems to be the platform of choice for the denim community and therefore its reach is far beyond any that we could achieve via alternative means.
Our immediate goal was to promote the book and to convey the quality and visually exciting images from the book as well as share information and reach out to the denim community.
T: How much time do you spend on Instagram on a daily basis?
N: Like most, I check my Instagram feed through the day, but I try to post on my main feed once a day. When I am away on a trip, I sometimes post a few times in stories.
T: How do you take your photos?
N: Just on our iPhones.
T: Which tools do you use?
N: We use StoryArt and Featured (Ft.), and sometimes use the touch-up tools within Instagram.
T: What’s your editorial flow?
N: It’s a mix of images from the book, reposts of people’s images of the book, travel, historical images, and cool denim shots.
T: What are your favourite locations to take photos? And why?
N: I like photographing in our back garden—because the light is good—and at denim events and in denim stores.
How Nick Got Into the Denim Business
T: How did you get into denim?
N: In 1992, I moved to New York where I worked as a print textile designer for design studios. A friend who was working at Diesel told me about their sample sales—I obviously jumped at the chance of purchasing their jeans and jackets at sample prices, but it was from this moment that I started collecting their catalogues and labels.
I was fascinated by the design, especially the vintage feel. The Diesel line that caught my attention was called Old Glory, which took inspiration from the Big Three (Levi’s, Lee and Wrangler). My interest in designing such hangtags was peaked and then spread to other clothing brands.
Suggested further reading: How ‘the Big Three’ Went From Workwear to Fashion
I eventually got a job at Nautica in the print department. After some time, the print department merged with the graphics department, and I then started working on graphics.
Up until this point, around 1997, all my design had been handcrafted. Designing on computers was becoming increasingly popular and so I bought the books, pestered knowledgable friends and learned how to use Adobe Illustrator.
I moved back to the UK in 1999 and landed a graphic design job at Levi Strauss & Co. Europe, which was based in Brussels. This was when I really started to geek out about all things denim. After a couple of years working on the Red Tab line, I was fortunate enough to start working at Levi’s Vintage Clothing, which involved frequent visits to Levi’s Archive in San Francisco.
My job was to recreate the artwork of old Levi’s paper and woven labels, buttons—basically any branding element that would have required artwort—in digital format so that it could be used with newly created Levi’s Vintage Clothing.
Whilst at the archive, we would photograph every piece and take measurements so that the new artwork would be accurate to the last millimetre. The detailed process and experience of working hands-on with such a historical archive were educational and immensely impressionable and influential to me.
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T: What’s your favourite feature of jeans?
N: Has to be the branding.
T: How do you wash your denim?
N: In the bath.
T: What’s your favourite fit?
N: Tellason Ladbroke Grove Slim Tapered.
T: Which boots and leather goods do you wear with your denim?
N: I’ve been wearing Red Wing boots since about ‘93. I got my first pair from Dave’s New York on 6th Avenue.
Right now, I’m breaking in some 8881 classic moc boots, I’ve got my eye on some black 8106 oxfords next.
T: Which sneakers do you wear?
N: I like white Stan Smiths, but don’t have any right now.
T: Favourite item that’s not denim or leather?
N: F/CE No 3. bag.
T: Where do you buy your gear?
N: Westerlind in NYC, General Quarters in LA, and Son of a Stag in London.
T: What styling tips would you give your followers if they wanted your style?
N: Don’t try.
Ready for More Stories …?
You can read much more about the history of denim branding in this in-depth blog post we’ve published on the topic.
If you’d like to read more Q&As, you can check out all the previous ones right here. And if you’d like to get a heads up whenever I post new stuff here on the blog, you can sign up for the free email newsletter.