The Best Fades of 2023: Indigo Invitational Year Three Winners

Year Three of the Fading Competition Gave Us Fades Like We’ve Never Seen Before

Year Three of the world’s largest denim fading competition is over, and we can’t take our eyes off of the podium pairs. The Top 10, selected by a panel of six denim experts, includes a wider range of fades than we’ve ever seen before in the competition. 

The pairs are a vibrant cross-section of the wide and diverse world of fades. There are stunning contrasts, showing the best of what the Southeast Asian scene is producing. There are perfectly balanced fades, blending the best of vintage and contrasts. And there are pairs repaired with loving hands.

How We Got Here 

More than 1,000 competitors leapt out of the blocks with brand new pairs of raw denim on April 1st of 2022. More than half fell by the wayside, but, after 365 days, nearly 450 competitors crossed the line.

As the founder and organiser, I sifted through thousands of photographs to select what I felt were the 50 best pairs in the competition. Well over 100 further pairs were singled out for exceptional results, but it was the Top 50 that was presented to the community. 

Registered competitors were then asked to vote for their favourite pairs, resulting in a short list of 16 faders.

To this was added four wildcard pairs–selected at this year’s Denim Days in Amsterdam (in an interesting development, two of these wildcard pairs finished on the podium, and a third finished in the top 10).

The resulting Top 20 was then presented to our panel of denim experts: Emilie Casiez, Christina Agtzidou, Tilmann Wrobel, Rowan Hunt, Shingo Oosawa, and Franz Keilhofer

We didn’t sway the judges in any way. Rather, we encouraged them to choose a deserving top ten based on their own tastes and expertise.

Each judge returned to us a ranked top 10 and detailed judging notes. When these votes were tallied, we had our ten winners. 

Giving Thanks and Prizes

Before we get to the winners, I want to thank our judges for the care and passion with which they approached their task. They’ve helped us appreciate the depth of talent in this scene. 

They’ve reminded us that fading is both an intentional and an accidental art, and thanks to their preference for the latter, they’ve given us the opportunity to elevate and celebrate incredible faders in our midst. Kudos.

I also want to thank our competition partners this year: Iron Heart, SOSO, Samurai, Full Count, Japan Blue Group, Ruttloff, Piger Works, OldBlue, &Sons, and Companion. Their contributions have helped keep this competition going, and, if you’re considering your options for Y4, we hope you’ll show them the depths of our appreciation.  

Finally, thanks to the generous support of rugged brands from around the world, we have thousands of dollars worth of prizes for our winners. We’ve assembled 10 showcases, and the winners get their pick of the showcases in descending order (1st place gets first pick and so on and so forth).

We also award spot prizes for exceptional faders who didn’t make it into the winner’s circle this year, and there are raffle prizes for which all finishers are eligible. The prize pool grows larger each year. If you want a chance to grab some of this loot, registration for Y4 will open soon.

Without any further delay, ladies and gentlemen, here are the winners of Year Three of the Indigo Invitational Fade Competition.

10th: Kamron Laesanthia

Iron Heart PIHXHS (25 oz.)

Kamron came out of the gate absolutely steaming, and, from the start, it was clear that he’d be one of the strongest Thai faders in the competition (and that’s saying a lot).

His pair captures everything we love about the contrast-loving Southeast Asian scene, and we’re thrilled to see him standing in the winner’s circle.

Jeans: Iron Heart PIHXHS (25 oz.)

Country: Thailand

Instagram: @kamronlaesanthia


Christina Agtzidou

Our judges were blown away by Kamron’s stacking, drag lines, and honeycombs. A common refrain was that this pair feels like a carefully considered work of art. Fade patterns are nicely balanced, but the symmetry doesn’t feel forced. Contrasts are bold, and there is a great variety of blue tones from top to bottom.

This particular collaboration between Pronto and Iron Heart is no longer available, but the backbone of the pair is Iron Heart’s legendary 25 oz. super-heavyweight selvedge.

You’ll need to push it hard to get results like these inside of a year, but Kamron has shown us that it’s possible.

9th: Chris Clark

SOSO Deep Double Indigo (25 oz.)

The first thing that stands out about this unmissable pair is what Chris has managed to do to the bottom half of them.

He picked an extremely heavy denim, selected a fit that would fit snugly around his calves, and then ordered them with an extra few inches of inseam length.

Jeans: SOSO Deep Double Indigo (25 oz.)

Country: USA

Instagram: @heritageheathens

The bellows-like fading is amazing.

Shingo Oosawa

The combination of the snug fit around the calves and the stacked up heavy selvedge couldn’t have been comfortable, but it produced results unlike anything we’ve seen before.

The seamless merge of the stacks and the honeycombs makes this a pair that will go down in history as one of the wildest fades we’ll probably ever see in this competition. 

A number of our judges singled out this denim as being an ideal choice for faders who want to produce eye-catching fades, Chris has clearly brought the best out of SOSO’s Sweden Selvedge–a legend in the making in the fade scene.

8th: Faizal Ismail

Pure Blue Japan XX-18oz-013-II (18 oz.)

Even in the stand-out Malaysian selvedge scene, these faded PBJs stand out in a big way. Faizal has brought out the absolute best in one of Japan’s best denims, known throughout the selvedge scene for it intense character. 

Jeans: Pure Blue Japan XX-18oz-013-II (18 oz.)

Country: Malaysia


Amazing brightness. Beautiful depth on the waistband and fly area.

Rowan Hunt

This pair took our breath away. As Tilmann noted, they are remarkably balanced, and this gives them a kind of intense beauty that draws the eye.

Franz noted the nearly unmatched combination of modern and authentic fade styles that have together produced something that looks fully faded, but not worn out.

This light-heavyweight could keep on racking up the miles for years. The white core of the yarn has been exposed in quite a few places, but, with diligent repairs, these would remain wearable for ages. A true blue treasure.

7th: Evan Rutledge

Denim Bridge BR05-01 (13.5 oz.)

Evan seemed to understand right from the beginning of the competition that Y3 would be different from other years.

Rather than trying to bring sharp contrasts out of a heavy pair, he went with something light that was cut in a vintage style. With a combination of wash and wear, he gave us one of the softest-looking pairs in the competition.

Jeans: Denim Bridge BR05-01 (13.5 oz.)

Country: USA

Instagram: @greenvinedenim

Nice thigh fades. Very uniform.

Rowan Hunt

They have all the hallmarks of vintage fades. A rich shade of sky blue darkening just slightly as the eye falls from thigh to cuff; small tears where the lightweight denim has buckled under the pressure; and just a touch of contrast around the knees.

They look like they’ve been worn for aeons, and they make a strong case for Denim Bridge as a pair for those who want to take a similar no-fuss approach to the competition.

6th: Hisataka Itakura

Big John Rare 009 (15.5 oz.)

We’ve been singing the praises of Big John’s Rare denim for the last few years. Two pairs featuring this stellar fabric absolutely breezed into the Top 50.

While the community vote only put this pair in 27th place, the denimheads in Amsterdam couldn’t get enough of them.

Jeans: Big John Rare 009 (15.5 oz.)

Country: Japan

Instagram: @hs98xx

Smooth and authentic look. Nice distressed knees.

Christina Agtzidou

Our judges shared the opinions of the denim lovers in Amsterdam. Tilmann called them “tasteful and elegant”, and this nicely captures our feelings about them.

Even with the shredded knees, they still seem fit for polite company. The circular fifth-pocket fade (a condom perhaps?) is a cheeky touch that captured our attention.    

The stunning blue tones and the rusty hardware show that this fader and this pair are a perfect match. Both seem to have brought the best out of the other.

Seen our review of the Big John Rare? That’s right, we’d done a super in-depth review of exactly these jeans. Read it here.

5th: Harry Kasim

Iron Heart 777XHS-BB (25 oz.)

Last year’s champion came back this year on a mission. He wanted to test his might against a formidable opponent. He picked one of the most stubborn faders on the planet and got to work.

Jeans: Iron Heart 777XHS-BB (25 oz.)

Country: Singapore

Instagram: @roadtofadedenim

Good mix of wear and care.

Franz Keilhofer

His results might not capture the eye as well as his indigo fades, but you’ve got to hand it to him for raising the bar.

Shing called Harry’s fades a “precious faded example” because of how rare it is to see black denim faded at this level. Rowan noted the incredible drag lines that merge into the honeycombs. 

Those who can appreciate the difficulty of producing fades like this know that this pair is a towering giant that will be a reference point for black-loving faders for years. It’s also solid proof that fade faith can move mountains.

4th: Chanaphat Mooumphan

Pinion Denim Deep Indigo x Purple (23 oz.)

Thai farmer Chanaphat Mooumphan made it clear very early on that he would be making waves in the competition. He wore these Pinions in the fields, and he didn’t hold anything back.

Jeans: Pinion Denim Deep Indigo x Purple (23 oz.)

Country: Thailand

Instagram: @chanaphatb

A true pair ‘from the fields’. Beaten and loved at the same time.

Franz Keilhofer

The combination of dirt and sweat worked their magic. They faded so fast, he probably left a cloud of indigo behind him everywhere he went.

The pair was washed before its final presentation, but some of the dirt has held on for dear life, giving his honeycombs an eye-popping 3D effect. Christina said they looked “almost like a sculpture”. 

What Tilmann called the “ultra everything” fades polarised our judges, with one judge giving them perfect marks and another leaving out of the top ten.

Even if fades this extreme aren’t your cup of tea, you’ve got to take your hat off to Chanaphat for his passion and dedication.

3rd: Trung Le 🥉

Warehouse Lot 1001XX Banner Denim (13.5 oz.)

This Vietnamese bootmaker seemed content to fly under the radar this year. Quietly, Trung was putting on a fading masterclass, and it wasn’t until he crossed the line that we realised what we’d been missing: a perfectly balanced fade that was earned with patience and hard work.

Jeans: Warehouse Lot 1001XX Banner Denim (13.5 oz.)

Country: Vietnam

Instagram: @akito51o

These seams show the beauty of unsanforized denim.

Franz Keilhofer

As our judge Shingo noted, the pair isn’t flashy, but that’s part of their appeal. The contrasts are subtle. They speak softly to the viewer.

You’ve got to lean in and take a closer look to appreciate this pair, and our judges leaned way in. A beautiful multi-tone fade reminiscent of dirty dustbowl fades from the 1930s, but with a distinctly modern touch.  

We received a number of messages from selvedge veterans who wanted to make sure we noticed this pair.

Incredibly, they placed 34th in the community vote, but when we put this pair up on the big screen in Amsterdam, there were gasps from the crowd. They sailed into a wildcard slot and, from there, they breezed onto the podium, where they belong.

2nd: Tomotaka Kumazawa 🥈

Denham Razor (13 oz.)

Our judges thought this pair was the coolest of the bunch. The fades pulled Tomotaka into the Top 50, but it was his repairs that pulled him onto the podium. They turned this nicely faded pair into what Shingo called a “work of art.”

Jeans: Denham Razor (13 oz.)

Country: Japan

Instagram: @bear_house_lenim

Bold repairs and beautiful authentic fades that show where the journey can go if you don’t care and just wear.

Franz Keilhofer

While they are as pretty as a picture, they have an accidental quality to them that connects them directly to the spirit of this competition. These are lifestyle fades par excellence, and results like this are within reach for a wide swath of our competitors. Take note.

When Tomotaka prepared his pair for presentation, he used all of his skills with the sewing machine.

The shredded back pocket, which had been left unrepaired for most of the competition, was finally stitched together, and the knees were patched and mended.

If Tomototaka continues to wear and repair like this, these jeans will just keep getting better and better.

1st: Alex Scheibner 🥇

Brave Star True Straight Sumo (25 oz.)

These dusty gold-medal fades are a product of their environment. Forged in the blacksmith’s studio, they spent most of the year covered in a thick layer of dirt and dust. When they were washed for their final presentation, they left no doubt that they would be sailing into the winner’s circle.

Jeans: Brave Star True Straight Sumo (25 oz.)

Country: Australia

Instagram: @alex.theblacksmith

The best of both worlds. Strong contrasts and the signs of time. Subtle and even shades.

Tilmann Wrobel

It was fairly unanimous among our judges that the ripped and repaired crotch of Alex’s jeans was the real show-stopper.

It shows how hard the pair has been worn, and the careful repairs added to the overall effect rather than interfering with it. 

From top to bottom, these are champions through and through. There is a near-perfect balancing of all-over and contrasting fade patterns with spectacular blue tones present nearly everywhere you look on this pair.

It’s a first appearance in the winner’s circle for Brave Star, and they’ve kicked the door down and planted their feet at the top of the podium.

In Closing

A huge congratulations to Alex and to all of our faders for a truly spectacular finish to our biggest year ever. We’re looking forward to seeing all of our winners come back in Year Four to defend their titles, and we want to take this opportunity to invite you to join us.

The community is warm and accepting, and we want to preserve this as we continue to grow year on year. We want to see this community grow into a truly global and broadly diverse movement.

We want to see more women in our midst, and we want to reach denimheads in South America and Africa. Help us spread the word and, together, we can make this community a touchstone for denim lovers the world over.

A huge thanks to all of our competitors and sponsors. It’s been an incredible year, and we’re looking forward to seeing you all again next year.

Love Denim and Fades? Join the Competition!

The Indigo Invitational is a year-long fading competition. It’s free to join, and all brands and weights are welcome. All you need is a brand new pair of raw denim jeans, and the best fades win! Oh, and the prizes are insane!

Visit to learn more and stay up to date! And if you need a new pair of jeans, check out our buying guides.

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